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Friday, November 19, 2010 | Comments (9)

First of all, we’re sorry for the week between posts. There have been a lot of good things preoccupying us here at Grace to You, but we’re ready to go at it again.

In our last post, John narrowed the scope of his comments to sanctification in the sexual arena. The most immediate reason for his focus is because that’s the subject of the text he was preaching, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 . . . and for good reason.

Sexual sin has a certain fundamentalness to it. Sexual sin goes to the core of our being and seems to be the quintessential expression of the sin nature.

That’s why Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 6, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18). That’s why lists of sinful practices that deny entrance into heaven always include sexual sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21; Revelation 21:8).

And that’s why God’s judicial wrath shows up in the form of sexual sin (Romans 1:1-32). Whether at an individual or a cultural level, when people exchange God for idols, embracing lies and suppressing truth, God allows the exchanging to continue. He hands them over to subverting forms of sexual sin.

You see the judgment underway when men and women exchange pure, wholesome sexual expression within marriage for impure lusts that dishonor the body outside of marriage—e.g., autoeroticism, fornication, and adultery (cf. Romans 1:24-25). When that judgment fails to bring repentance, God hands people over to the degrading passions of homosexuality—men with men, women with women, committing shameless acts with one another (cf. Romans 1:26-27).

Those who want to worship the creature rather than the Creator receive the full measure of that exchange, which is the due penalty for their error (Romans 1:27). In their hearts, they exchange the true God for idols, so God gives over their bodies to exchange the pure for the impure. That’s a clear mark of God’s judgment—using the visible, particular sin of sexual immorality in the body to chasten the hidden, general sin of idolatry in the heart.

So, the specific case of sexual immorality John MacArthur covered in 1 Thessalonians 4 is really a call for us to make a universal commitment to sanctification. Getting sanctified is more than dealing with sexual sin (though it isn’t less). Getting sanctified means we pursue a holiness that invades every crack and crevice of our lives.

The Puritan John Owen mined some extremely helpful principles out of Scripture on sanctification. If you don’t own a copy of The Works of John Owen, Volume 6: Temptation and Sin, take a break from this article and order it right now. Reading John Owen can be challenging (which is why I’ve taken the liberty of “updating” his wording below), but extremely profitable; he’s a theologian with the heart of a shepherd. Okay, enough commercial…

John Owen wrote, “Without sincerity and diligence in a universality of obedience, there is no mortification of any one perplexing lust to be obtained.” That is to say, you’ll never find victory in mortifying any particular sin (like sexual sin) if you’re not committed to mortifying all sin in your life. Here’s John Owen again,

Someone who has a “running sore” upon him, arising from an ill habit of body, contracted by intemperance and ill diet, let him apply himself with what diligence and skill he can to the cure of his sore. [But] if he leave the general habit of his body under distempers [i.e., illness or disease], his labour and travail will be in vain. So will his attempts be that shall endeavour to stop a bloody issue of sin and filth in his soul, and is not equally careful of his universal spiritual temperature and constitution.

What would motivate you to address only the particular, “running sore” that troubled you and neglect the more profound spiritual condition of your soul? Owen suggests, “It disquiets you, it has taken away your peace, it fills your heart with sorrow, and trouble, and fear; you have no rest because of it.” That is to say, you’re bothered, so you pay attention and address it.

Trying to mortify one transgression in particular while you neglect to hate sin as sin, while you fail to make every effort to remove all the leaven from your life (cf. Deuteronomy 16:3-4), can be inherently selfish. It might show you’re still focused more on the creature (you) than the will of the Creator. Owen continues,

Yea; but, friend, you have neglected prayer or reading; you have been vain and loose in your conversation in other things, [things] that have not been of the same nature with that lust with which you are perplexed. These are no less sins and evils than those under which you groan. Jesus Christ bled for them also. Why do you not set yourself against them also?

One more quote from Pastor Owen: “Hatred of sin as sin (not only as galling or disquieting), [and] a sense of the love of Christ in the cross, lie at the bottom of all true spiritual mortification.”

Whether it’s freedom from some particular sin, like the sexual immorality so prevalent in our day, or the more fundamental greed and idolatry that drives all sin (Colossians 3:5), God wants to sanctify you from all of it (1 Thessalonians 4:3). In fact, Jesus prayed for your sanctification (John 17:17) and wants to see it through (Philippians 1:6). God wants you free from sin, holy as He is holy, and happy in divine joy.

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

Like I said, that’s just a footnote. Now, back to our regularly scheduled series…

Travis Allen
Director of Internet Ministry


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#3  Posted by Jorge Alvarado  |  Sunday, November 21, 2010 at 3:03 PM

Hi, In this walk, we WILL fail Jesus. We WILL deny and betray the Holy Spirit. We WILL, like Peter, deny Jesus when it's convenient for us (peer pressure, anyone?). We WILL fall to temptations.

One thing to remember is that God has chosen us. He has set us apart. He has given us the tools to understand that, even though there very well may be consequences to our actions, the thing to remember is that He will NOT leave us nor forsake us.

The Bible is filled with people failing God. Most with more faith in their pinky finger than I will ever muster up in a lifetime. Yet, some were said to be "after God's own heart"; "friends of God"; and even Jesus would call some of the apostles "friends" of His.

Take heart. Our failures are the only things we remember more vividly. Do not dwell in them. Keep running the race to win it. Know that God is true to His word. We are His. No one can snatch us out of His hand.

#4  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Sunday, November 21, 2010 at 7:09 PM

Diana is the god of sex in Ephesians. It was a corrupt city which had

those idols. Paul was bold preaching there.

Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot and his two daughters came out of the city by

the hand the angels. Sadly Lot's wife desired to look back which she lost her life. Lot's daughter committed incest with their father.

The Benjamites committed sodomy in Judges 19.

David committed adultery with Bathsheba. He murder Uriah for her.

Judah committed adultery with a harlot which was his daughter in law.

Many more in Bible.

We all need self-control and purity.

God bless.

#5  Posted by Douglas Grogg  |  Sunday, November 21, 2010 at 11:10 PM

Travis, thank you for introducing us to John Owen. He, like most of the puritans, understood the absolute necessity of holiness in the life of the believer. We are exhorted to perfect holiness in the fear of God. (see 2 Corinthians 7:1) We are also exhorted to pursue…holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14) A.W. Pink in his An Exposition of Hebrews warns his readers “The negative here is fearfully emphatic: “without which (namely “holiness”) no man shall see the Lord”-in the Greek it is still stronger the negative being threefold-“not, without, no man…no, no matter how orthodox his beliefs, how diligent his attendance upon the means of grace, how liberal he may be in contributing to the cause, nor how zealous in performing religious duties. How this searching word should make everyone of us quail!”

It is writings like these that cause me to spend much more time before the Throne of Grace petitioning our merciful and faithful Great High Priest for mercy and enabling grace. I see much more fruit in my life as a result. I treasure Christ all the more and I have a much more realistic hope of someday hearing “Well done good and faithful slave” from my Master. Thank you again. –His Unworthy Slave

#6  Posted by Travis Allen  |  Monday, November 22, 2010 at 5:31 PM


Good stuff from A. W. Pink, and so true. The Pharisees were orthodox (Acts 23:6-8), but Jesus condemned them (Matt. 23:23-36). Satan and his minions are orthodox (Jam. 2:19), but will spend eternity in the lake of fire (Rev. 25:41). And many today are orthodox (even Reformed), church-goers, into social justice and the like, and yet they do not seem to love the holiness and hate sin.

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." (1 Pet. 1:14-16)

Thanks for the post!

#8  Posted by Ed Rehrig  |  Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 3:27 AM

Hello Jorge Alvarado,

Thanks a lot for your post. It has helped me out a great deal this morning. Quite well stated and all so true.


#9  Posted by Mary Kidwell  |  Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 5:45 AM

I appreciate the encouragement to pursue holiness but just wanted to comment on the motivation. As a believer whose sins have been atoned for by Christ, I do not fear punishment for my failure to be holy as God is holy. My sins have been removed as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12) and Christ's righteousness has been imputed to me (Romans 4:5, 2 Cor. 5:21). My motivation for seeking sanctification is to be obedient to God out of my love for Him and my acknowledgment of His Lordship, as well as to better represent Him since believers are called to be ambassadors for Him (2 Cor. 5:20). He is holy and therefore we should be holy in order to bring Him glory and represent Him to the world lost in darkness. My fear in failing to do this is not that I will lose my chance to see God but that I will have failed to bring Him glory for which purpose I have been saved.

#10  Posted by Mary Elizabeth Palshan  |  Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 8:08 AM

Very good post, Douglas. As long as we are examining ourselves, we also have to make sure we do not just hate the world's sin, because that is easy for anyone to do, but that we hate our own sin. And the reason must be clear as to why we hate our own sin, because many unconverted, in a sense, do repent of sin. We hate our sin because it tramples underfoot the beauty and the glory of a holy God, one who is so precious and deserves nothing but praise and worship.

#11  Posted by Dan Wilson  |  Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 9:20 AM

Do not love those who love us only, love those whom hate us.

If one loves life would lose it. if we hate our life, we are

living for the Lord.

Thanks Douglas. Amen!!

#12  Posted by Mary Elizabeth Palshan  |  Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 10:12 AM

I also feel that the Roman Catholic faith does a huge disservice describing sin the way they do. They divide sin into two categories, venial and mortal, thereby loosely giving the impression that some sins are worse than others, which downplays (for example) hatred as sin, and puts murder on a grander scale.

But Christ simply rebukes that teaching by saying, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment (Matt 5:21-22).”

This failure on the part of the RCC to understand all sins are equal (I do understand that sins against the body are of somewhat greater importance), carries with it a very careless attention to the fact that even a white lie is an abomination to the Lord.