Jon and Justin hone in on the Christian life–and how a confessional perspective is completely different than that of pietism.
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By Ref Cast — 7 months ago
The guys talk more on uses of the law–and how confusing the first and third use of the law is particularly damaging. Justin also offers thoughts on how some Puritan theology is unhelpful.Resources:Podcast: Law/Gospel Podcast: Are You a Legalist or an AntinomianFREE EBOOK: Safe in Christ – A primer on restGiveaway: “Christ the Lord” by Michael HortonSUPPORT Theocast: https://theocast.org/give/ https://youtu.be/wysSDKhHk6MSemper Reformanda TranscriptsJustin Perdue: Welcome to the Semper Reformanda podcast.Let’s pick back up on that part in particular, the first and third use of the law, and how they’re confused and collapsed. We may talk a little bit more about Paul Washer’s famous sermon as an example of this kind of frightening Christians to death.Jon Moffitt: You can go read his sermon. It’s available online. You will see that a lot of the content is the first use of the law, and there is not a lot of gospel, and there is not a lot of grace in there. If he genuinely thought that those were unbelievers, then he should have concluded with Christ. But I think the way in which he approached it is that he approached it like they are believers, but they’re just not taking their faith seriously. He comes in and uses the first use of the law to get them serious, which is a very Puritanical way of using a sermon.I know I’m gonna get myself in a lot of trouble because I know people love, love, love, love, love Paul Washer. I’m not impugning the man’s motives. The man wants people to love Christ. He wants them to obey Christ. So does John MacArthur. How do you impugn those motives? Those are not bad motives. I’m just saying that I think the way in which they have approached it has been demonstrated in the past as not being the accurate way of doing it biblically. They are not the first to make this mistake.Justin Perdue: No, they’re not. And I’ll just speak very personally. I feel like this is something that I still am recovering from personally. My tendency so often, because of my conscience and the way I’m wired—and I’ve been pretty open about that in the past—I rededicated my life probably 150 times as a younger guy. I just have always been haunted by that idea of not being good enough for God. I think my default posture is to always revert back into this kind of economy of fear and dread—that God is not pleased with me, and there’s something not right between me and God. I think a lot of it has only been undergirded and that flame has only been fanned by preaching like we’re talking about. Because even as I encountered Calvinism, I was encountering this kind of stuff alongside the old good stuff, and it was confusing to me. So when I hear things like this, my immediate response is not, “I love Jesus and he loves me. I am safe and now I want to obey.” It is, “Oh my Lord. I’m afraid for myself.” Then Jesus and God don’t feel safe. The last place I want to go is the “throne of grace” when I sin. It’s just bad.That’s just me personally, brother. And I have to fight that instinct even still and remind myself. That’s why I pray for mercy all the time, that God would take away shame and guilt and fear that I carry around all the time.Jon Moffitt: For every podcast, that’s what we pray.Justin Perdue: I pray that for myself all the time. And I pray for faith.Jon Moffitt: Instead of running into the throne room of grace because mercy is waiting for you, there’s this need to get myself in shape or prepared or ready; it’s a penance type of Christianity. It is very confusing. Listeners that are coming out of a lordship context, they will contact us and they say, “For the first time in my life, I actually feel like a child of God and that I am safe in His arms,” versus wondering, “Have I done enough?” What do you mean? Done what? He’s done enough.Justin Perdue: Amen. No, it’s the greatest news in the world. And this message of lordship salvation, like we said so many times, is at best confusing and at best throws some clutter on top of the gospel. We just don’t want to see that happen because it really does rob the saints of peace. And it hinders us, we would say, in real growth and sanctification. We might get really good at doing the right things and being disciplined in the right ways because we’re afraid, or because we think that somehow this is earning God’s approval, and that he’s like smiling upon us because we’re doing this stuff. But in terms of real growth in love of neighbor and in fighting sin from good motivation, it’s not happening when we have this kind of frame.So don’t collapse the first and third use of the law. Don’t scare Christians into obedience.Jon Moffitt: Can I say one thing, too? If and when you have Christians who are in sin, it’s interesting how you hear Paul use words like, “You who are spiritual, in a spirit of meekness and gentleness, go to such a one and restore them.” Even when Paul is dealing with the Corinthians—he says, “I’m coming to you to preach to you the gospel.” The tenor and tone of a Christian should always be with gentleness and meekness and patience. Even when Paul says in Romans 15, “You who are spiritual, bear with the weakness of those who are in sin.” So anger and frustration and malice and just brashness towards sinning Christians is not the tone that you see from the New Testament.Justin Perdue: I’ll caveat that even more. I do think there’s a time and a place for stern warning to Christians who are living in obstinate, hard-hearted sin. But listen to the words I’m using: it’s stubborn and hard-hearted sin. It’s very much like, and you see it at a couple of points in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, where people are being arrogant and comfortable in your sin, and we are now going to challenge that with the law. That’s clear. That’s not at all what we’re talking about.We’re talking about people who want to obey the Lord, who find themselves having a hard time doing that, and they’re struggling against sin. Has anybody experienced that this week? I have. I am battling my flesh in my inner man. I want to obey yet I feel this very Pauline experience of there’s this other law waging war against me. And we’re talking to those people here where we want to preach Christ and guide one another with the law. But it’s not this fear and dread business and so, in condemnation and the like. That distinction makes all the difference in the world.Let’s talk about Puritans. Like we said as a parting shot from the podcast, the real issue here is not that any historical category of doctrine has been denied, but that the emphasis and the accent has been moved from Christ to the Christian. So at the end of the day, what’s being done in the lordship camp is akin to what was occurring in some of the bad Puritan writing and theology where the sheep are effectively being pointed back to themselves. It’s not that justification is denied. And justification, being the declaration of righteousness from God upon us, it’s the judicial verdict that we are right and just, and we’re in a right relationship with God. Justification is not being denied. It’s just that the emphasis is on something else: it’s on moral transformation, it’s on the renewing of your mind, it’s on obedience, and those kinds of things.This is why I think, as I read many Puritans… Now there are some who are really good, just to be clear—John Owen, John Cotton, Thomas Boston—I could keep going. These guys were great, but some of them were not so good. Why? And they can hardly be recognized as heirs of the Reformation because the emphasis is so much on moral transformation and obedience and introspection and holy living. Even though they haven’t denied justification formally, it’s sort of shoved off to the side or it’s pushed into the background, which is exactly what we talk about all the time with respect to pietism, and it’s exactly what we were pointing out today with respect to lordship salvation.I would just say this: in reacting to antinomianism, which is what John MacArthur was doing in writing this book in the first place, what you don’t want to do is drive the sheep back to themselves and away from Jesus. That’s not effective. I think that our forebearers have gotten it right when they understand and have articulated plainly that we have to keep justification and sanctification distinct, even though we agree that sanctification flows out of justification, and we just have to continue to beat that drum with clarity. Also the fact that assurance of salvation has to be grounded in something objective. It can’t be grounded in performance.A couple of quotes here. John Calvin says this from The Institutes: “The grace of God and the certainty of salvation and faith neither arise from nor depend on our obedience.” That’s really good. Then John Cotton—who is an American Puritan, who as a younger man was an Arminian and becomes a Calvinist, and has really, really good thinking and well-developed categories of covenant theology and these various things—says effectively this, paraphrased: “We do not build our justification on our sanctification. Doing so we enter into a covenant of works.” He’s exactly right. When we are building assurance of, of the fact that we are saved on how we’re living, we have effectively entered into a covenant of works. That’s a mic drop statement.Jon Moffitt: At the very heart of what Piper has been confusing with the final justification is that you are building your justification based on your sanctification.Justin Perdue: You’re building your salvation, in some sense, on your sanctification.Jon Moffitt: Right. John Piper is not confessionally Reformed. He does not hold to a covenant of works. He does not understand a law-gospel distinction. He does not hold to the three uses of the law. And these are all categories that we draw from the texts that give us lenses to appropriately interpret the text. We aren’t using these to put them on the text—they come out of it, and then we use them for all of Scripture. For instance, the Trinity is one of these lenses that we pull up out of the text and then we use it to look at every port of Scripture. It prevents you from being a heretic. You want to use those lenses. You want to know what all of Scripture has to say about the Trinity so you don’t make inappropriate conclusions. All we’re saying is that all of Scripture has a lot to say about the law and the gospel, all of Scripture has a lot to say about how to use those. Now use that to interpret every single passage.When it comes to guys like MacArthur and Piper in these particular instances, they aren’t using those categories, and because they aren’t using those categories, they’re collapsing them and they don’t even know it.Justin Perdue: That’s a podcast in and of itself. I know we’ve talked about some of that stuff lately, but covenant theology and law-gospel distinction, for example, are two great illustrations of things that come up out of the text that we then can go back to the text with those frameworks, and it helps us understand the whole Bible. It’s so critical. It’s important.This conversation today, if anything should encourage the listener to continue to grow in our understanding of these kinds of things—the distinction between the law and the gospel, to grow in our understanding of even confessional theology and the definition of what faith is, and to also grow in our understanding of covenant theology and the redemptive historical framework of the Bible—because so many of these errors can be seen pretty quickly and clearly when you have some of these categories in view. That’s really all we’ve done. We’ve read the book and interacted with the material. We’ve got alarm bells going off because it doesn’t seem right.Jon Moffitt: This is the most accurate description. If he didn’t mean to say those things, he had the opportunity in his republication of the most recent one. And I understand things that Justin and I have said in our younger years as pastors, we’ve adjusted there. But you listen to recent sermons of lordship salvation guys, and the books that are being written; they definitely have adjusted their languages, definitely more Reformed and informed, I would say. So they don’t make the same mistakes that they’ve made in the past where it’s flat out Roman Catholicism.So when someone tells me that Lordship salvation is another gospel, dispensationalism used to teach another gospel when they taught two forms of salvation: the old one and the new. But most dispensationalists reject that today. If you listen to the lordship salvation guys, a lot of them do reject a lot of the craziness that was taught back in the day.Justin Perdue: That obedience is faith and these kinds of things. They’ve rejected those things full-stop.Jon Moffitt: I’m glad conversations are being had and we’re moving more and more and more to this direction. Sometimes when I hear someone describe lordship to me, I don’t know what to call that, but historically that’s not lordship salvation, not according to the debate.Justin Perdue: This is just me reacting to this on the fly. I think that really a lot of what this lordship stuff is a lot of Calvinistic Evangelical pietistic thinking.Jon Moffitt: I would say lordship is pietism.Justin Perdue: It’s pietism, which is what the bad Puritans were. They were pietistic. So a lot of this goes back to those same categories that we continue to talk about over and over again.Thank you to the listeners and to all of our members.Jon Moffitt: Jump in the app and talk to us. It’d be a great place to continue. The rule is we are going to practice sanctification in that app. We are going to practice on one another. Think about what you’re saying, give someone the benefit of the doubt, everyone’s in transition, everyone’s thinking through things differently, they come from a different background. The goal is to not be unified for the sake of unity, but the goal is to unify around Christ. Christ draws us in, and that’s where we find our point of unity.Justin Perdue: I would even say that if you guys have thoughtful feedback on episodes, the SR app is a great place to give that. It’s a way better place to give it than the Facebook group just because that’s a broader audience. But for you guys and gals in particular, who are members and part of this ministry, we want to hear your feedback. What it may do is show us that we need to do another episode on lordship and clarify some stuff. Anyway, give us feedback.We love you. We’re grateful for you. We will talk with you again next week.
By Ref Cast — 5 months ago
Jon and Justin talk about adoption–how God has brought us into his own family through the blood of his Son. We now call God, “Father.” The guys also get into some law/gospel stuff and a biblical understanding of God’s holiness.
Giveaway: “The Bruised Reed” by Richard Sibbes
1 John 3:1
Semper Reformanda Transcripts
Justin Perdue: Welcome to the Semper Reformanda podcast. I know we were being funny with the title For God So Hated the World, but that is so often how it comes across. “God is just really angry and reluctantly at best is saving sinners. But really, I don’t even know if He wants to do that. If it didn’t bring in glory, He surely wouldn’t do it because He has no interest in our wellbeing.” That’s just so far from the biblical picture. He is holy, He is righteous, He is just, and He is gracious, merciful, tender, and delights to save sinners, and that’s why He is so worthy of worship. Here we are to talk about that more.
I’m mindful of Luke 12:32, about how Jesus says, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s delight to give you the kingdom.” That’s a wonderful thought here, too. But where I’d love to pivot this conversation to is like a Romans 8 idea, along with other passages, of how we have been adopted into God’s family. Like 1 John: we’re now sons and daughters of God. And how we’ve not been given a spirit of fear, but we have been given the spirit of adoption through which we cry, “Abba, Father,” and God is no longer our judge. God is no longer scary. I’m preaching to myself here. He’s no longer scary, He’s no longer threatening, He no longer condemns us, He’s not our judge anymore—He is our Father. We don’t have to do anything to climb up into our Father’s arms to be held by Him and to be loved by Him. That’s already been given.
Jon Moffitt: He picks you up.
John 20, Jesus comes out of the tomb and Mary realizes that Jesus is not the gardener, but is Jesus. The King James mistranslated it and it was very confusing. It says, “Don’t touch me.”
Justin Perdue: Don’t you criticize the King James version.
Jon Moffitt: Oh my. I got myself in trouble with that.
She grabs him—I’m imagining that she’s holding him around the legs as if she’s saying, “I’m not letting you go.” Jesus gives her motivation to let go. This is what he says: “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and to your God.'” I love it. It’s like he’s saying, “We’re brothers. We’re family. Your Father and my Father.” Why can Jesus proclaim the inclusion that he makes? Because he gave the right to adoption to sinners. His blood is the ink on the page that says you belong. It’s amazing.
Justin Perdue: Thinking about adoption, JI Packer’s book Knowing God is a Christian classic. I think the best chapter in that book is the chapter on adoption. Packer makes the argument—and this was written in the 1970s—that it is one of the most neglected doctrines in the Scriptures. Like you said, the ink is literally the blood of the son of God. Our adoption is secure and our status as adopted children is going nowhere. Just to think about God’s love for us and how He did these things for us. If we thought more about it, we would be greatly helped—and I think he’s right.
Martin Luther famously wrote the hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. And there’s that line, I think, at the end of the third verse (at least the way we sing it at CBC) where he’s talking about the devil. That song is about God being our fortress and how the devil and spiritual warfare is real, but we’re safe and secure in the Lord, and in particular in Christ and what he’s done for us. But at the end of that one verse, Martin Luther writes that one little word that will fell the devil. Luther was cited as saying that that one little word, as he had it in mind when he wrote the hymn, was Abba and how us being able to call God “Father” is what ultimately undoes the devil in all of his work and power. That’s a remarkable thought: God being our Father and us being able to call him that and being able to, with confidence, approach the throne of grace because of God’s fatherly, gentle disposition toward us is the undoing of the evil one. What a blessed thought.
Jon Moffitt: You said a couple of things. When you are dealing with someone who says, “Yeah, but I think you guys are deemphasizing the holiness of God. And because of that, if you continue to present this position of Jesus, then people will not see it necessary to be holy.” Your response to that is?
Justin Perdue: A number of thoughts. One of them is what I said in the regular show that I think that when we rightly present the totality of God’s nature, rightly emphasizing His holiness, justice, righteousness, and His love and grace and mercy, and help us understand that the holy God is the one who delights to save sinners, what is actually produced by that whole accurate presentation is reverence and awe before the Lord. I am amazed that this God loves me and has saved me and sent His Son to live, suffer, bleed, and die for me to the extent that I am moved to worship and my desire is to love and serve and obey this God. So that’s one of my responses. Yes, we uphold the holiness of the Lord and His righteousness so that we can accurately represent Him in His grace and mercy. That is most obviously seen in the work and in the cross of Christ, which I think is the most moving, gripping, epic message in the universe and would produce awe and reverence before the Lord. It would do anything but produce licentiousness, looseness, and apathy towards the things of God. I think, if anything, the message where holiness is overemphasized and it’s all about righteousness and wrath and the like, what that ends up producing is either hatred of God or it produces a fear of God, like I said before, where the last thing in the world we want to do is be near Him. And it’s like He’s not really worthy of worship, except for the fact that like a dictator, I feel like I have to or I’m going to die. In the other position, my heart’s cry is that I love God because of what He has done for me. I don’t deserve it—I’m a wretch and He loves me. He is incredible and awesome. Praise be to His name and I will delight to live in His presence forever with the other redeemed saints. It’s a disconnect for me.
I think my other response is a basic law and gospel response. I was having this conversation the other day with the guy who was on staff with me here at the church, and we were on our way to a meeting with some people from our church. We got into just talking about some other churches in our area that we know of and some things that have been brought to our attention lately. Just talking about how there is such a lack of law and gospel preaching, and how if I or the guy on our staff were ever invited to a church like this particular church, our sermon is a law and gospel sermon. We just begin with what the Lord requires. The 10 Commandments are great, but let’s just even simplify it more than that and let’s take it straight from the lips of Christ himself: we’re to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and we’re to love our neighbors as ourselves. How are you doing with that? We preach the law of God in all of its holiness, because the irony is many of the people that scream about wrath and scream about God’s holiness else are over there relativizing the law. They are telling people to live a certain way, and they can, in one sense, please God. Or they take a scalpel to the law or a machete to the law and say, “I’m just going to cut some parts out and leave in other parts. I’m going to emphasize this and throw this over here.” Whereas, I think what we need to do is preach the law in all of its holiness and frankly, in all of its terror apart from Christ because we are ruined and crushed by that. Then, having preached the law to people who cannot keep it and then showing us that we can’t keep it, then we preach Christ and his work and what he came to do in his own words, that he, “did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.” And then you begin to see that this is what the Lord has been doing all along. This is why he gave the law in the first place. This is what the sacrificial system, the priesthood, the day of atonement, the Passover, and all the feasts and all these things were about. This was about what God would accomplish through Christ, and we preach that message.
That’s my response. I agree with you that we need to emphasize holiness, and we need to do it in such a way where we are astonished at the grace of God and the fact that He loves sinners and actually celebrates when we come to faith and repent—which is His work anyway, but He celebrates that. And then preach the law and preach the gospel. I don’t think anybody’s going to get it twisted that we don’t think God’s holy.
Jon Moffitt: As you were speaking, these are the thoughts that came to my mind: mercy, rightly taught, creates merciful, Christians. And grace, rightly taught, creates gracious Christians. But what ended up being taught in the modern Calvingelical legalistic context is law, and it creates legalistic Christians.
Justin Perdue: Self-righteous Christians.
Jon Moffitt: Right. Legalistic, self-righteous Christians.
When I think about the woman at the feet of Jesus in Luke 7, what did Jesus constitute to her disposition? Much forgiveness. When I see people in my congregation who see that their sins have been massively forgiven, they tend to have a mass amount of mercy and patience and grace. When Paul says in Ephesians 4 to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,” and immediately points to graciousness, mercy, and longsuffering, God has been merciful and patient and long suffering towards us. He says, “Look, I will not forgive you if you are unwilling to forgive.” The response of a Christian should be mercy and grace, and yet what I hear is legalism and law and self-righteousness.
Justin Perdue: It’s not surprising. I’m picking up on your idea and I think you’re exactly right. I just jotted this down as you were talking. I think when the law is mishandled, which is what you’re saying, 1 Timothy 1:8, we uphold the law when it’s used lawfully, but when the law is not used lawfully and is used irresponsibly, damage occurs. And in particular, what often happens is the law is preached to Christians and it’s confused.
In our churches, Jon, you and I mean to do two things in preaching to the redeemed. We do mean to preach the first use of the law every week to continue to remind us all that we can’t keep it and we need Christ for that and that he’s done it. So we do that. But then we also preach the third use of the law as the guide for our lives, but we do that in a way that is gentle and not threatening and not condemnatory because the law can no longer condemn us in Christ. It doesn’t mean that we don’t love it and that we don’t want to follow it—of course we do—but we’re not afraid of the law anymore. But what happens often is that the third use of the law, in the minds of many Calvingelical preachers, the guide part is actually preached with this threatening tone like it’s the first use. Then what occurs is when people are being told effectively to live better, it’s done with this edgy and threatening tone, which then produces people that are edgy and threatening in how they interact with everybody else when it comes to obedience. It’s always about doing something or else. That’s how we interact with each other. It’s not shocking. The tone and tenor of the preaching in how the law and the gospel are understood then affects the tone and tenor of all the relationships in the church.
Jon Moffitt: Justin and I could do this all day—we’d go off each other. But as you’re talking, what I hear is that preaching that should be relieving people of their burden and giving them hope for their burden, like in Galatians 2, bearing one another’s burden, instead, we are putting a burden on top of them and we’re exhausting Christians with the law inappropriately preached with the first use. And Jesus is saying, “No, no, no. My burden is light. The yoke that comes with me is a relief.”
Justin Perdue: Why is that? Because he’s done.
Jon Moffitt: That’s right. So when I or any preacher of the gospel or even you who are sharing Jesus with your friends, neighbors, and your congregation, and you’re building each other up, it should be the relief of the burden off of them. You weren’t adding to the burden, but you’re carrying that burden. Galatians 6:2: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” What gets me upset is there are people preaching Jesus and they give more burden. Paul says you preach Jesus and carry burdens; you don’t put more burdens on people.
Justin Perdue: Suffice it to say that Jesus is gentle, lowly, and compassionate toward those who know that they need him. He is always that way: he is not scary, he is not threatening, he is not disappointed. He welcomes us in love, he invites us to come to him, he reminds us that in him are found peace and rest and life, and we can approach him for those things. And he wants us to be with him. If anything, for me, one of the takeaways is that God so loves us that He rejoices to save us. That is a reminder that I don’t think we can hear enough.
Grace and peace to you saints who are listening to this podcast. We hope sincerely that you’ve been encouraged in Christ and in the love of your heavenly Father today. We have been as we’ve talked about it. Keep pressing on, keep trusting Christ, keep loving each other in your local communities. We pray that things continue to develop with SR and the app and the groups and all that good stuff so that even more community and encouragement can ensue. So pray for us.
Please continue to support this ministry. We’re very grateful for you and your partnership. We look forward to more of this and more rest in Christ and more joy in him and all that stuff, should the Lord tarry in the months and years to come.
Jon Moffitt: Join some groups. If you’re not in a group, join an online group or a local group. Let’s get this thing rolling.
Justin Perdue: Jon’s condemning all of you who haven’t joined the group yet now that we’re done with the gospel part.
Jon Moffitt: I’m encouraging you, not condemning.
Justin Perdue: Jon’s encouraging you. He is your kind adviser.
Anyway, before this goes off the cliff, we’re going to say goodbye. We will talk with you guys again next week on SR. Peace.