source: By John Piper. ©2012 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org
View/Read John Piper’s Conference messages here-
- John Piper – Putting Sanctification in Its Place – Part 1 of 2 from the Desiring God Conference September 28-30, 2012
- John Piper – Future Grace, the Word of the Cross, and the Purifying Power of God’s Promises – Part 2 of 2 from the Desiring God Conference September 28-30, 2012
Some great points from Kevin DeYoung’s message (see full transcript below): God has a vision of holiness. As we would grow to share in this holiness that belongs to God, that we are in Christ and now we start to look like Christ. So those are the commands. But, what does Paul do, and what does God do by the Holy Spirit, through Paul to get us from here to there? There is holiness- put away, anger, malice, immorality. Put on love, patience, gentleness. What does he do to get us from here- we don’t have those things and we’re more sinful than we think, and we’re less gracious than we realize and he wants to get us over here. Well, he doesn’t just give a long list of commands; he gives motivation. He gives theology. If you don’t care about theology, you don’t care about holiness. Because, what God does is to give the Colossians lots of theology to stir them up to this new kind of life.
He says in verse 1 – “You have been raised with Christ, so seek the things that are above, with Christ seated at the throne above. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth”. You see the motivation? Set your mind on heavenly things. Why? Because you have been raised form the grave with Christ, you have been raised in His ascension, so that you now are seated in the heavenly places with Christ.
- So, here’s the logic: If you reside in heaven now with Christ, why are you making choices as if you lived in hell?
- Your placement with Christ is a motivation for your progress in Christ likeness.
- And God will say .. to you, “Do you know where you are?” You’re seated with Christ. You’ve been raised with Him where He is. Shouldn’t where you are make a difference to what you’re like?
- You have to picture Christ on the cross and see Him hanging there not only for the penalty of your sin, but FROM the power of that sin
- Some people have a very hard time understanding that threats and warnings in Scripture are there for our sanctification.
- “Shouldn’t we be emphasizing God’s grace? Isn’t it all of grace?” And I say, “Yes! And what makes you think the warning of God’s wrath is not His grace to you?”
Kevin DeYoung (my full transcript):
One of the aims of this message is to correct a problem. The problem is this: Believing, preaching, praying, counseling, and self diagnosing as if there were only one proper motivation for holiness.
That’s a problem not always stated explicitly. It sometimes seeps into our bloodstream and how we do ministry, or how we speak to others, or to ourselves. And, if proper is too strong a word, we might say ‘best, deepest, pious, truest, ultimate motivation. Is there only one? My concern is that as we try to help people on their journey to sanctification, we not unnecessarily limit ourselves. I fear that we often remove some of the tools from our sanctification tool belt, or we set aside some of the weapons of our warfare. Or that we flatten the promises and commands and warnings of scripture, so that we no longer say all that the Bible allows us to say and would have us say.
I think of it like this: Jesus is our great physician. And, as any good doctor, He knows how to write different prescriptions for different illnesses. Jesus knows what we need, He has many doses at His disposal. God knows personalities and sins and situations. And so He is gracious to come at us with all sorts of truth, from all sorts of angles to make us more like Christ. Jesus has many medicines for our motivations. Good doctors can give lots of different prescriptions and what I fear is that we may get locked in a ‘one size fits all’ approach to our growth in godliness. And we may even stumble upon a true, good, biblical motivation. But, if we make it the only one, we will be short circuiting our sanctification.
Sanctification at the micro level
Let me give you a few short examples:
- Duty. Luke 17:10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” Eclesiastes 12:13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. We do have a duty, something that is required of us before God. We owe Him our obedience. He is God, we are not. So, duty’s not bad. But, it’s far from the normal way in which God speaks of His commandments. He doesn’t just come our way and say, “I’m the Lord, your God, so you’d better do it!” Think of what He says in the 10 commandments, “I am the Lord, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt,” don’t miss that part. Before He gives us a list; God doesn’t just give us a bald list of commands, “Here you go, top 10 commands, for Christians, there it is”. He starts by saying, “I am the Lord your god, your God… I brought you out of Egypt…Do not worship anything or anyone else”. He’ll say, “Don’t bow down to graven images.” Why? “Because I am a jealous God and I visit iniquity, visit the sin in the third and fourth generation and I show steadfast love to thousands of generations.” “Do not take the name of the Lord, your God in vain. Observe the Sabbath day,” and in Exodus ‘observe the 7th day’ because God rested on the 7th day. Deuteronomy says, “Take a beak, give your people a break because you were slaves once too, so don’t be treating your servants like they’re slaves. Honor your mother and father, that it may go well with you.” So, God comes at us, not just with a list of commandments, but with many reasons for those commandments.
- Gratitude. Romans 12:1 - I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. I believe he is hearkening back to all of the promises in Romans 1 through 11, all of the massive truth there, in view of those realities in in gratitude for them. Ephesians 5:4- Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. Thanksgiving, gratitude helps to squeeze out what is mean and bitter and nasty. So, whatever problems you may have, if you’re an angry person, one of your problems is gratitude problem. But, gratitude by itself is not enough. It can quickly turn into s debtor’s ethic. i.e. All this has been given to me by God, so the rest of my life I’m trying to prove how thankful I am. Or, there is a tendency, with gratitude as your only motivation that you only look backwards at what has happened. So duty is fine, gratitude is good, but not by themselves as the only motivation.
- Justification. It is gloriously true that we are accepted before God because of the work of Christ alone, the benefits of which we receive through faith alone, by grace alone. That ought to be our sweet song and confession at all times. And, this is a MAJOR motivation for holiness. If we are accepted by God, we don’t have to live for the approval of others. If there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus, then we don’t have to fear the disappointment of others. So there’s no doubt that justification is fuel for our sanctification. But, it is not the only kind of fuel we can put in the tank. If we only remind people of our acceptance before God, we will flatten the contours of Scripture and we will be poor physicians of souls.
James 4:1- What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? James is saying, “Because you have now come to grips with your acceptance.” He says, “But, you’re covetous, you’re selfish, you want things that you don’t have, you’re demanding, you’re in love with the world. You’re envious”. That’s what’s going on with your heart right now.
The problem is that we fall into this risk of thinking that there is just one need, there is just one motivation. It’s the same problem, but on a different level that some of christian psychology fell into- assuming a universal needs theory. Sin is always an expression of unbelief. But, there are lots of God’s promises I can be disbelieving at any moment: His promise to accept me in Christ, His promise to judge the wicked or His promise to come again, or His promise to give me an inheritance, or His promise to turn everything to my good. To remind each other of justification is never a wrong answer, it is a precious remedy. But, it is not the only one that we need and it is not the only one that Scripture offers.
Colossians 3- We see in this chapter and we see in so many chapters the multiplicity of biblical motivations for holiness. The first part of the chapter, verses 1 through 17 give a macro level view of how God motivates us. It deals with general commands, general principles. And then, the last part of the chapter- the household code, verses 18 and following, gives us the micro level view where you zero in on the family and day to day life and see how God gives specific motivations for specific commands.
At the macro level- first thing to notice is that this passage is full of imperatives. Paul wants the Colossians to live a certain way. He doesn’t assume that just by telling them the good news of the Gospel, that it will happen. He goes on to tell them what it should look like. He wants them to grow in sanctification. So look at the commands here:
- verse 2 Set your minds on things that are above
- verse 5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you. That means immorality, impurity, evil desire, idolatry, covetousness
- verse 8 put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
- verse 9 Do not lie
- verse 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness,humility, meekness, and patience
- verse 15 let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,
- verse 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
- verse 17 do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God
The whole passage is a long series of statements with imperatival force. God has a vision of holiness. As we would grow to share in this holiness that belongs to God, that we are in Christ and now we start to look like Christ. So those are the commands. But, what does Paul do, and what does God do by the Holy Spirit, through Paul to get us from here to there? There is holiness- put away, anger, malice, immorality. Put on love, patience, gentleness. What does he do to get us from here- we don’t have those things and we’re more sinful than we think, and we’re less gracious than we realize and he wants to get us over here. Well, he doesn’t just give a long list of commands; he gives motivation. He gives theology. If you don’t care about theology, you don’t care about holiness. Because, what God does is to give the Colossians lots of theology to stir them up to this new kind of life. (20:11 minute mark)
- You’ve been raised up - He says in verse 1 – “You have been raised with Christ, so seek the things that are above, with Christ seated at the throne above. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth”. You see the motivation? Set your mind on heavenly things. Why? Because you have been raised form the grave with Christ, you have been raised in His ascension, so that you now are seated in the heavenly places with Christ. So, here’s the logic: If you reside in heaven now with Christ, why are you making choices as if you lived in hell? Your placement with Christ is a motivation for your progress in Christ likeness. He wants to remind the Colossians, “Do you know where you are this morning? And God will say that to you, “Do you know where you are?” You’re seated with Christ. You’ve been raised with Him where He is. Shouldn’t where you are make a difference what you’re like?
- You’ve died - Then in verse 3 he says, “You’ve died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God to turn from your past and sin and your unrighetousness“. You have to do more than just turn the page. People say you have to turn over a new leaf. No, you have to consider your old self dead, buried. You have to picture Christ on the cross and see Him hanging there not only for the penalty of your sin, but FROM the power of that sin. And you have to see, hanging up there on that cross with Christ is the ‘you’ that was into drugs, and the you that manipulated people, and the you that was angry all the time and the you that was filled with bitterness, and the you that lived from sensuality to sensuality. That you is dead. You died.
- Consider what you will become - You see now, verse 4 “When Christ, who is your life appears, you will also appear with Him in glory”. So, this motivation is working in the opposite direction. Instead of considering what you once were and how you are dead, now, you consider what you will become. What you will be like when your Christ comes and you appear with Him in glory. There’s a better you that you’re getting to. That’s why, as you’ve heard last night, sanctification and glorification are all of a piece- the process of making you perfectly glorified, fit for heaven, for all eternity is under way now. And so, Paul motivates by saying, “Think of who you will be when Christ appears. Think of whom you will be, that man, that woman, that child, without sin, without all of the anger and the bitterness that you have now. Now, think of that you”. Isn’t that what we do when we have a goal in life. 1 John 3:2 “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared. But, we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him because we shall see Him as He is”.
- Consider God’s wrath – Here is a different kind of motivation, he tells them to put away these earthly desires and in verse 6 he says, “On account of these, the wrath of God is coming”. Some people have a very hard time understanding that threats and warnings in Scripture are there for our sanctification. You try to piece together, “I thought we have eternal security and God’s gonna keep us and He’s going to preserve us, to the end”. That’s wonderfully, absolutely true. And how do you think He preserves the elect to the end? By warning them of what will happen if they did not. In God’s people, these warnings stir up something in their hearts so that says, “Oh Lord, You would be just to judge and keep me in the love of God, even as You keep me in the love of God”. The warnings are God’s means of preserving the saints. Sometimes, in an effort to be Gospel centered we shy away from the warnings in Scripture. Some of you may desperately need to hear about your new identity in Christ, you need to hear how much God loves you in Jesus and there may be others of you that you need to hear, “Look, the way you are living right now, and the stuff that you are into right now, this is why the wrath of God is coming. Coming for people who do things like those you are living for. His wrath will be poured out on the earth for the things you think are no big deal. Some people need the literal hell scared out of them. But you say, “Shouldn’t we be emphasizing God’s grace? Isn’t it all of grace?” And I say, “Yes! And what makes you think the warning of God’s wrath is not His grace to you?” If you are not giving to yourself, or to your friends or to your people all of the grace that God has for you. If you are not warning them of what God will do, and what He will pour out upon those who are found to be unrighteous and unbelieving.
- You are a new creation in Christ. Paul goes on in verse 9 & 10 to describe the reality as a new creation in Christ.
- Christ is in all of you. In verse 11, “that’s why you are to bear with one another and love one another, and maintain unity with one another“.
- Consider your identity as God’s chosen ones, holy. Don’t pass by that verse 12. Pay attention to what God calls us: Chosen ones, holy, beloved. There’s a difference in how a coach can talk to a player. That’s how I picture God, pulling us in and saying, “Listen, my chosen ones, my holy ones, my beloved ones…” Don’t you know this parents, how a father can pull aside his son and those identity words can make all the difference? You can bark out commands to your son or you can say, “Look, you are my son and I love you with all of my heart. And you are my special boy and you are special, smart and I am so proud of you. And you will always be my child and I will always be your daddy, but, we gotta talk about some of the things you’re doing.” That’ll get their attention. God comes at you and He doesn’t just yell out commands. He says, “My chosen ones. I chose you before the foundation of the world. You had nothing good in you that I should choose you, but, in order to set my affection on you, that you might be my treasured possession, I chose you. I count you holy in Christ and you are beloved to me.
- verse 13, Paul says, “We’ve been forgiven, so we ought to forgive. verse 14 “consider what love does, it binds things together in harmony. verse 15 “consider you are one body, so therefore be at peace”.
Do you see the multiplicity of motivations coming from a dozen different angles to get us from here to there? To move one itty, bitty degree of glory to the next? God doesn’t just say, “Here’s the list and just do it”. He says, “Let me tell you all the reasons why”. Here’s a simpler way of looking at what God did. Step back and think for a moment here at what God is doing in Colossians. He basically does three things:
- He tells them what was- you died, you were raised, you’re not your old self
- He tells them what is- you’re in heaven, you’re in Christ, you’re a new creation, you’re one body
- and He tells them what will be- the wrath of God is coming, and Christ is coming, and the glorious appearing is coming, and an inheritance is coming
(transcript from first half of the video) What follows – Sanctification at macro level from Colossians text.
Related articles from the same conference
- John Piper – Putting Sanctification in Its Place – Part 1 of 2 from the Desiring God Conference September 28, 2012
- John Piper – Future Grace, the Word of the Cross, and the Purifying Power of God’s Promises – Part 2 of 2 from the Desiring God Conference September 28, 2012
Related articles by Kevin DeYoung and others
- The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung
- The Christian pursuit of godliness2012/08/21
- Kevin DeYoung Tweet on Scripture2012/06/21
- Why the historicity of Adam is important2012/06/12
- Together for the Gospel – Thabiti Anyabwile – Will Your Gospel Transform a Terrorist? Kevin DeYoung –Spirit-Powered, Gospel-Driven, Faith-Fueled Effort2012/04/15
- Repentance is always an option. It’s never too late (via Kevin DeYoung)2011/09/07
- The Gift of Friendship and the Godliness of Good Friends By Kevin DeYoung2011/08/18
- Kevin DeYoung on Money and Possessions (essential reading)2011/05/02
- Distinguishing Marks of a Quarrelsome Person (via) Kevin DeYoung2011/02/25
- Family Series 13 – Kevin DeYoung on Doug Wilson’s ‘Wise words on birth control’