Speaker Panel

Desiring God 2012 National Conference

Act the Miracle: God's Work and Ours in the Mystery of Sanctification

David Mathis: Jarvis, thank you for taking us in that practical direction with your message. I thought it might be fitting that we stay there for just a bit and engage the panel here on that. Let’s focus on some super practical things for when you go about pursuing personal devotional and prayer time, and how you go about that. Get into some more nitty-gritty practicals that maybe you and other guys would share out of your experience that would encourage the brothers and sisters here in their pursuit of that.

Jarvis Williams: Well, for me, I think it depends in part on the person. I’m an early-to-bed and early-to-rise type of person. I love to rise up at five o’clock or six o’clock in the morning and have long seasons of prayer, Scripture reading, and meditation, but in addition to that I try to incorporate prayer and reflection and preaching to myself throughout the course of the day. I like to have an early morning season of prayer before I start my day, but I think there’s flexibility in terms of the person. Maybe for some folks they stay up late. They sleep later because they stay up late. Others may do that in the afternoon, depending on schedule. So for me, I think there’s flexibility in terms of the person.

David Mathis: Do any other guys have anything to share that would be of encouragement just by way of an example among many?

John Piper: The principle that I think we should keep in mind is that the warfare against sin and for holiness is a warfare to be fought in the moment with the Bible and in the background with the Bible. In other words, daily meditation on Scripture is tilling the garden in which the flowers of holiness grow. And if a rabbit at three o’clock in the afternoon comes along to try to chew down this beautiful flower, you kill it. And you kill it with a verse that you remembered from the morning. So it’s the both/and. I think we can sometimes only do one. We can say we need the Bible at the moment when we’re challenged in some way of impatience or unkindness, and I need a verse to kill that sin. Yes, you do and I do. But we also need to be stocking that arsenal and just sweetening my sour heart every morning.

So I would just give those two things by way of principle. We are pursuing a sweetening, humbling, nourishing, strengthening season. And those are just adjectives of which there are probably a thousand in God’s mind of things he’s doing in our heart when we read the Bible that we don’t know he’s doing. And then through the day, we need particular daggers that we stick Satan with when he’s trying to make us do something we shouldn’t do.

Jarvis Williams: That reminded me, it has been an experience as well in terms of having a consistent time of prayer, but also when I’m seized with anxiety unexpectedly, then I start fighting and preaching to myself those verses. There was a season in my life where there were just these doubts about whether God’s sovereignty was worth believing. So I had to fight and that fight was late at night, throughout the wee hours of the morning. So the seasons of life in which we’re in sometimes push us to fight in a less conventional way in terms of when we have our devotions. Maybe it’s the wee hours of the morning, or the early hours in the morning, but when we struggle, we fight in the struggle in the moment. Thank you.

Kevin DeYoung: I’ll say two things quickly. First, don’t pass up those promptings to pray. I know as an order guy, a Presbyterian type, that sometimes I’ll get it at night and I’m just feeling, “I need to go pray. I need to think through this.” And then the thought comes in, “I’ll do that in the morning.” No, just do that.

The second thing, very practically, that has helped my prayer life the most has been not sitting down while I’m doing it. I walk most of the time, whether it’s on a treadmill, which I find extremely tedious, or outside in Michigan, which I find very cold. But I just walk. It’s much harder to fall asleep, studies have shown, when you’re walking rather than sitting. I wish that I could wake up and sit there and just have great times of prayer, but I get very great times of sleepiness that come quickly. So I walk. You go out and you walk 25 minutes and you have 25 minutes to come back, or however long it is, and you pray. Your mind wanders at times and then you come back. In some of the wandering, you get some great things that come in and out of there. So walking has helped me immensely.

Russell Moore: That has helped me as well. And also, it helps me personally to keep from becoming stilted and scripted in prayer, because as you’re walking, your mind tends to move around and to race and it just becomes easier for me not to move into some kind of theatrical mode of prayer. But again, I think the most important thing is to know yourself and to know how to subvert yourself in your particular weaknesses and tendencies towards sin.

When it comes to, for instance, memorization of Scripture, I have a friend who can memorize entire books of the Bible. He does it on note cards. You can reference Ephesians 4:3 and you can almost see the note cards turning in his mind. He’s built with this engineer’s mind where that’s easy for him to do. I have to trick myself into memorizing Scripture. I’m more of a literary kind of a mind, and so I’ll have a lot of Scripture memorized, but it’s not because I’ve done note cards, it’s just because I’ve spent so much time in that particular place. I don’t think you can look at any particular model and say, “I’m going to emulate that,” as much as you have to say, “Where am I weak? Where am I strong?” and then build around that in those practices.

Russell Moore: I’m a Presbyterian as well, but I think I’m one of the few completely undisciplined Presbyterians, where I know that walking around is helpful for prayer, so what? It doesn’t matter, I’d still rather just sit in my chair. How does Scripture affect my sanctification? I think to me it’s sort of working out where I never notice it day to day, but it does something over time. I know that. I don’t have times set up like that. I’ve tried getting up, and it just never works. I try to do it. You didn’t include on your list a couple of things though. You didn’t include when your wife really yells at you about things. In my own style of life, if you followed me around, I guess most of us, I don’t do obvious sins. I mean, I’m not screaming at people, I’m not involved in pornography, so it’s easy for me to go through a day without just being pierced by the Spirit that I didn’t have times of confession.

I know that my wife’s sweet confrontations are often what I need. It might not always be sweet. It’s not always sweet, but it’s exactly what I need. Those are times the Spirit uses in my life very powerfully, along with what you mentioned, just the hardships of life, the failures of life, and the tragedies we see around us. Oh, maybe one other thing with that, I do find that for me Scripture and prayer corporately is most helpful for me. It’s helpful to do it with other people, with my spouse, with my kids, with my colleagues. That’s when I find the Spirit meets us with a new kind of discipline.

David Mathis: We gave Jarvis a limited amount of time, and he hit some big ones in the Word of God, preaching to ourselves, fervent prayer, and suffering, and we have Dr. Moore scheduled to talk about corporate dynamics tonight, but would there be other means of grace that you guys would put out there as helpful and commending to others in their walk?

Kevin DeYoung: There was a pre-conference session on the Lord’s Supper, which was helpful.

Russell Moore: How was it helpful?

Kevin DeYoung: Well, it says in our church’s liturgy that the Lord’s Supper is a feast of remembrance, communion, and of hope, which I think is good. God condescends to us by giving us visual aids. People say we live in a visual culture. We need to see something, and we need to taste it and touch it. Well, that’s true. God thought of that, and so he gave us sacraments or ordinances for something to see as a tangible reminder. So it’s like the Heidelberg Catechism says: “As surely as I can taste this bread and drink from this cup, so surely did Christ die on the cross.” You come bearing the weight of your sin on Sunday morning, and you think, “Can God love me? Can God forgive me?” Then you can say, “Can I eat this bread? Can I drink from this cup?” So there are precious means of grace to us at the table that I think we often overlook.

John Piper: Somebody may have mentioned, or will tonight, the inspiration of other people’s holiness. I’m thinking right now of history and biographies. That’s a means of grace for me. I mean, few things outside the Bible inspire me to want to be something that I’m not as much as biographies of people who, in their sinfulness, have conquered some sin, or conquered some weakness and have glorified Christ more because of it. So I’m stirred to want to press on and fight the fight by stories that I read in history of people who’ve done it.

Russell Moore: I would add hymnody. I find that often the power of hymns and of songs comes not in the moment in which I’m singing them, but later when they just show up in some primal place inside of me. Often they are very, very convicting. I found myself just a few weeks ago and I was driving along. I was having a very difficult time in terms of self-pity and anxiety about something. I had my iPod just set to random music, and all of a sudden, the old hymn from my tradition “Just As I Am” came on, which I’d heard every single Sunday — all 50 verses — at the end of every service as a child. But it just pierced through me because I thought, “I don’t believe that right now, that I’m standing here just as I am without one plea, except that your blood was shed for me.” And it moved to this point of repentance and conviction that I’m not sure simply thinking about it would’ve gotten to me so quickly. So I think hymnody is significant and important with lasting hymns that reach to that deep place inside of you. I think that’s critically, critically important.

David Mathis: John gave us a couple categories of spiritual disciplines: feeding ourselves, strengthening ourselves, and then the moment of temptation. Over lunch, we mentioned James 1. Let me read a couple of verses from James 1 and let’s rehash some of that conversation on temptation from lunch. He says:

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death (James 1:13–15).

We talked about the moment of temptation over lunch and the kind of counsel you guys give folks when they come to talk about that.

Russell Moore: Well, I think Satan works in two ways scripturally. One of them is in deception. So you have someone who is deceived into thinking, “I don’t believe this is going to have consequences. You will not surely die.” Or they think, “Somehow I’m special. God’s law doesn’t apply to me in this case.” So they’re deceived and they don’t see what’s actually happening until it’s too late, and then through accusation, that’s the way that the devil accuses us because of our sin. And so either one of those areas leads to the same place, which is ultimately death. So I think in the moment of temptation, one problem that people have is not being aware of the darkness around us. Scripture warns us consistently about that. The passage that Jarvis mentioned earlier about the cosmic powers of this present darkness is something we need to be aware of, along with my own fallenness and my own tendency towards sin. But we also have to be aware of the possibility of despair.

I mean, one of the ways that Satan can pin us down in temptation is to have us start to think of ourselves as an animal. We think, “I don’t have any power over this. I don’t have any control over this. I’m just simply determined to walk in this way.” Several of us at lunch were talking about how I had a guy come to see me one time, and I’ll never forget the conversation. He said, “There’s no way I can be a Christian because I’m just grappling with things all the time. I’m struggling all the time.” And I said, “Me too.” He said, “No, no, no, you don’t understand.” He said, “I’m just always at war inside of myself.” And I said, “Me too.” He said, “No, no, you don’t understand. Let me tell you, this is what I mean. If you could prove to me today that the bones of Jesus are in the ground in the Middle East, I would leave here and get as drunk as I could get, have every drug I could find, and sleep with any woman that would let me.” And I said, “Me too. As a matter of fact, the Bible says that’s exactly what we ought to do if Christ has not been raised. But do you believe that the bones of Jesus are in the ground in the Middle East?” And he said, “No. That’s the reason why I’m constantly in this turmoil and fighting against this inside myself.”

I had to say, “John, what you’re living is the normal Christian life.” It was not John Piper. What he assumed was that everybody else is living this life of tranquility, just humming hymns to themselves internally. He knew the kind of struggle that he had. Well, that’s evidence of the Spirit’s work. He wasn’t able to see the difference between temptation and sin. God does promise you through the gospel and through the Spirit the power to escape from sin. God never promises us an escape from temptation before resurrection from the dead. So if we don’t see temptation as something we’re going to have to take up our cross and fight against, then we’re not going to be armed and able to stand.

John Piper: I just wanted to ask if you ever sing the hymn “Blessed Assurance,” the second verse. It says, “Perfect submission, all is at rest, I and my Savior, am happy and blessed.” I mean this is a serious question. I stumble over the hymn wondering, “Can I think of an instance where that’s true, so that I can with some integrity sing this song?” Because I like the tune and I like most of the words. My answer is there are moments like that, I think. So do you agree with that?

Russell Moore: I think those moments are small and fleeting. I think the whole of the Christian life is one of battle because there’s always the presence of sin and there’s always the presence of the world, the flesh, and the devil around me that I’m to put to death inside of myself. So I think that if somebody is expecting a life of tranquility rather than a life of peace, I wouldn’t expect that. In Scripture, peace in this age doesn’t necessarily mean tranquility. The God of peace will crush Satan beneath your feet (Romans 16:20). So if you’re expecting that lack of self-crucifixion, you’re expecting something Jesus doesn’t promise. And I think so many of us do, and we want that to be the case.

Frankly, many people think — and I think this is largely because of some of the ways that we have given testimonies in our churches and our conferences and in our evangelistic crusades — that we want to encourage people, and we want to say to that drug addict out there, “There’s hope for you.” So what do we do? We put an ex-drug addict up who says, “Previously I loved heroin, then I met Jesus, now I’m totally free from that. I haven’t even thought about heroin in years.” And we think that’s going to be an encouragement.

The problem is you have that guy who’s sitting out there who says, “I’ve been following Christ for 15 years and every morning I get up and have to fight against this pull toward heroin.” And he thinks that’s a sign of a lack of godliness when in reality that’s a sign of godliness. The ones who are tranquil and simply marching forward with no thought of anything going on internally, I think Hebrews 12 would tell us, are those who are being left alone. The devil is not disturbing them. They’re on their way toward destruction. They’re not being disciplined by the Spirit. And so I think as long as you see that second verse of “Blessed Assurance” in an eschatological sense it’s right. I have this rest, I have this peace, and I have this tranquility in Christ seated at the right hand of the Father, but I don’t translate it into our own prosperity gospel where God’s favor with me is seen in an absence of any kind of conflict. In that sense, I think we can sing it with integrity.

Ed Welch: Since you guys say so much packed into a little bit, let me just make some of the links because I think they’re important. He’s talking about temptation. The first thing you talked about was Satan, which was brilliant. That’s the way we’re to be thinking. And then John came up with this song, which as far as I understand what you were saying was that we know his devices. And what’s the way to battle with Satan? It’s to humble ourselves before the Lord. Perhaps if there’s one short statement summary of how to do battle it’s, “God, you are God,” or, “God, you are holy.” It’s to submit ourselves to the Lord. That encapsulates so much of the battle. So obviously the two of you are saying all kinds of things which are very important.

Then you’re coming back and reminding us that we are perfectionists at heart. That’s our theology. It’s on and off. On the one hand we sin, and then we think we’re perfect. This whole conference is moving toward what’s called progressive sanctification. Sin doesn’t let go of its clutches immediately. In that wonderful phrase, we move from an affection for sin to sin being an affliction. That’s a process. So thanks, you guys are saying just lots of things in those short comments that are great. Thanks.

Kevin DeYoung: I’m going to give the J. C. Ryle line. The Christian has two great marks about him: his inner peace and his inner warfare. Both of those things are true. We recited from the screen here from 1 John 5:3, which says, “And his commandments are not burdensome.” And all the Christians said, “Really?” But they’re not, and the yoke is easy and the burden is light, and the warfare is long and unceasing. That’s the whole Christian life, how all of those things fit together.

I love what you’re saying about temptation because I think a lot of Christians are either unaware of temptation so that they fall into sin, like you said over lunch. If you’re not aware of temptation in your life, it’s not because you’re not tempted, you’re just sinning. You’re just giving into it. But on the other hand, I think Christians can have a lot of false guilt and the sense of, “I’m unclean because, man, there’s this part of me, or there’s Satan coming at me, and it’s making me feel like I want to do these things that I know are not good.” Assuming that King David was not going onto the roof because he knew what was coming, he went onto the roof, saw Bathsheba, something clicked, and there was temptation. There was some moment, maybe just for a split second there for David, that it was not sin, but it was very pregnant with sin and it became sin real quickly. We need to realize there are those moments all the time in our lives, and we need to address them and flee from them. And yet, we haven’t sinned if we resist temptation. I think you should really share the 1 Corinthians 10 escape from temptation thought because that was really helpful.

John Piper: I just drew attention to the wording of that passage, which says, “No temptation has befallen you but what is coming to man, and with it, the Lord will make a way of escape so that you may endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). I’ve always thought that’s a really provocative way to end the verse. After he’s used the word escape he uses the word endure. A way of escape is made so that you may endure it. It may sound like, if you’ve got an escape, you’re not enduring anymore. My conclusion is that escape is the power to endure. I mean, the word hypomonē (endure) means that you’re being pressed upon and you’re not being crushed. You’re feeling pressed by external or internal things, and endurance means you’re not going to give out. You’re not going to squash. That’s the escape. The Lord gives that.

Russell Moore: Here’s maybe one other comment, and Kevin gets at this when he quotes, “His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). I appreciated that. With that in mind, perhaps one of the things we can add to our struggle with temptation is something like this. Here’s our goal. One of the most human things we could do is experience temptation that is palpable, experience it physically, and to say no in such a way that it’s painful to say no. That’s our aspiration. But given your particular comment, we should add to it that we’re going to love it. Because that’s who we were created to be. We’re going to love that particular battle. That’s the way we can invite people to the battle. It’s not burdensome, it’s a delight because you will know what it means to be fully human and you’ll love it.

David Mathis: Let’s go with that. What is the role, or not the role, of commandments in sanctification and obedience?

John Piper: The role is to tell you what you ought to do.

Russell Moore: That about sums it up.

David Mathis: Do you want to address the third use of the law? What is that? What is the debate and discussion there?

Kevin DeYoung: I believe in the third use of the law. Theologians talk about the law being used in different ways. I know I always forget one and two. One way is as a restraint on wickedness. You get these commandments, and in some kind of common grace it restrains you from doing everything you might want to do. Second, we think of this maybe most in the law gospel distinction. The commands come at us and we say, “I don’t live up to that. I don’t love my neighbor as myself. I don’t love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I don’t obey the Ten Commandments. I need a savior.” It shows you your need for a Savior. You run to Christ.

Then the third use, which is in the various historically Reformed confessions, and also in the Lutheran ones, which is sometimes overlooked, is that the law is also given to us as the perfect rule of righteousness. There’s a lot of difficult theological layers because, what do we mean by the law, for example? The law can mean the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, it can mean the Mosaic covenant, and it can just mean commands. And what do we mean as an instrument of our sanctification? The law is not giving us the power to obey, but it is giving us the blueprint. It is pointing us along the path. It is telling us how we ought to live. In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul can do this back and forth about saying “I’m not under the law, but I’m under the law of Christ.” And there’s a sense in which he’s saying the Mosaic covenant is not our covenant. We’re not under law, and yet we don’t want to do away with commandments. We’re still under the law of Christ. He wants to hold that out for us, so when he gets to Romans 13:8–10, for example, and he talks about love, he says, “Love is fulfilled in these commandments” (Romans 13:8–10). He lists half of the decalogue. It’s fulfilled in love.

So if people want to know what it looks like to love your neighbor, you have to go to some of the commandments; and if you really want to obey the commandments, you have to talk about loving your neighbor. I wouldn’t quite say they’re interchangeable, but you have to talk about both if you’re going to talk about either in a truly biblical way. I would say that is the heart of the third use of the law. So the New Testament is full of commands. God still gives them to us. We just need to obey them as one hoping to live out all that we are in Christ and not as one hoping to prove or hoping to earn some sort of status in Christ. So the law leads to the gospel, but if you look at the Exodus, the gospel also leads to law. Because he set them free from Egypt. He didn’t tell them, “Clean up your act, obey the Ten Commandments for 400 years, and I’ll set you free.” He just set them free, and then he led them to Sinai and he said, “Now you’re going to worship me, and here’s what it looks like.”

David Mathis: Talk about the role of striving in the Christian life. Some would want to read texts that command us to strive for certain things as being reduced to belief in each and every circumstance. How do you guys deal with that when and if you hear that kind of hermeneutic?

Russell Moore: I think Kevin got at this very well in his message this morning. There is a tendency and there is a danger because we tend to, as Christians, ping back and forth between extremes. We tend to react to whatever was the last bad thing that we encountered. So people who grew up in churches for which the gospel was for unbelievers and everybody else was living according to rules or principles or however this was laid out in that congregation, they tend to want to move away from that and say, “We have the gospel. We’re received in Christ. We’re accepted in Christ. We believe the gospel. And so everything else just comes almost organically, reflexively.” So there’s a tendency to not want to talk about pleasing God or about the commandments of God. And then those people’s children react to that with, “We really have to have holiness. Let’s have rules and regulations and eclipse the gospel.”

Instead, you have both of those things. You have a gospel that frees us and it tells us who we are in Christ, it tells us what has been done for us. But that grace that has freed us has freed us to live out a life in Christ that is defined by the word of Christ, by what it is that he tells us to do. And so we believe, and because we believe, we’re obedient. Pastor Piper’s book, Future Grace, I think is one of the most helpful things in print about this, about the fact that because we believe God, who has spoken to us about how we can be freed from condemnation and how we’re made right, we also then believe him when he tells us what is best for us as we move toward the future that he has for us. It’s both of those two things put together.

Jarvis Williams: Paul seems to be using the language of striving with katergazomai in Philippians 2:12–13. He says, “Work out (katergazesthe) your salvation . . .” That's the language of striving and fighting, because God has worked in us. So it seems to be a consistent motif to say that God’s work in us, to reiterate the point in my talk, is the foundation underneath which we strive and fight for the pursuit of holiness.

John Piper: As I’ve thought about this most recently, what’s been helpful is to notice that the phrase “by faith” is a definer of the verb “live”. For example, in Galatians 2:20, Paul says, “The life I live, I live by faith.” So the living and the faith are not the same. This is the reductionism that you were referring to, David, where if the Bible says, “Strive to enter by the narrow gate,” people just take that word “strive” and you say that means “believe harder”. Well, it doesn’t work that way because you have descriptions of the Christian life that use verbs of doing or living by faith. So faith becomes the instrument or the empowerment, or something, for which this other thing called living or doing happens. We walk by faith and not by sight. So the walking is not the same as the believing. I’m walking by believing.

I think what that means then, practically, is that the way the will is engaged in obedience is not simply by believing. For example, you’ve decided to do the command to visit this person in prison or welcome this refugee into your home or something, and it involves the motion of your body. The legs have to flex and you must get up, open the door, get in the car, turn the key, and take some time. These are all physical actions that have in and of themselves no moral significance whatsoever, but they are what you’re called upon to do. They’re getting you towards doing something.

Now, the question is not merely believing. I must do that by faith. That’s why I wrote the book. What does that mean to open a door by faith, turn a key by faith, drive a car by faith, go to a prison by faith, or visit a sick person by faith? Also, your will is telling your muscles to do things, and you’re doing them, and that takes some exertion that you said is painful. It’s hard to deny yourself a comfortable evening at home when you think you should go to the hospital or something.

Here’s where the rubber meets the road for me. The alarm goes off. I’ve had the grace to set it half an hour early for meeting God in the morning. It goes off, and I am absolutely dead tired. My mind and body make an absolutely compelling case for why sleep is more needful than the Bible. Now, what do you do at that moment? By faith, you get out of bed. Well, for me that would mean believing the promise that it is more blessed to be with my Bible than to be in bed. Believe it. Having believed that, now what? Believing that will get you out of bed, but not until you say to your legs, “Flop over the edge of the bed, legs. Flop. Do it now. Do it.” That really is what it comes down to when you’re getting up in the morning. After you believe, your will tells your body to do things or not.

That’s why I think it is over simplistic, it’s flattening, and it’s reductionistic to say that that battle is only fought in terms of believing the gospel more, or believing the promise more. It is believing the promise and convincing yourself that it is more blessed to give. That’s going to produce the motivation to get you out of bed. But then your will says to your legs, which are saying “no”, “Yes, you are.” It really is interesting. You should try it sometimes to see how it works, really. You sit there and you watch yourself talk to yourself and watch your muscles work in obedience. I mean, I just find it interesting that I can make my hand move up and down. Look at that. It’s a phenomenal thing. You say, “Go up,” and it just obeys. It’s just phenomenal.

Kevin DeYoung: If my getting out of bed was that interesting, I wouldn’t have a TV either.

John Piper: You don’t need one.

Ed Welch: I’m thinking two ways as you’re talking. The first one is that I’m thinking theologically about striving. I talk about that, and I encourage people to do it. But then I’m also thinking personally about what happens in my own life. I’m not a good flopper. I say, “Okay, just put the leg out of bed,” and it only wins like a quarter of the time. So I really appreciate those of you who are really skilled in flopping like that, really. I’m serious. I think to myself, what is it? But I think this really is consistent with what you’re saying, John. Striving for me I think is, open your eyes. Don’t you see who you are? Don’t you see you’re not your own, you’re bought with a price? Don’t you see who your God is? Open your eyes. Don’t be deaf, dumb, and blind. That step I find for myself is utterly essential. Then it flops pretty easily.

John Piper: No, not easily. It doesn’t flop easily. That is an essential step, an absolutely essential step, because we come to believe the promises by seeing Christ for who he really is. The fight to see is the essential step. Otherwise, the obedience is legalism. Getting up for your devotions is legalism if all you do is talk to your legs. But once you have seen it, I find it still hard. You said so, I’m just quoting you. It’s painful. It’s painful to do self-denial. The commandments are not burdensome. Well, at that moment, there’s a burdensome element, but you’ve preached to yourself, saying, “It’s going to be better.” You’ve learned this over the years, half an hour in the Word is going to make you a better daddy at the breakfast table, and it’s going to make you a better pastor. You’re going to give thanks at the end of the day that you did this. Right now though, the body is saying, “I don’t want to get up.” That’s why I balked at the word easy.

Ed Welch: Gotcha.

Kevin DeYoung: I wanted to just say, I don’t think any of us are in danger of working too hard. Now, that may sound not quite right theologically, but here’s what I mean. We can be in danger of striving, of working, and of being diligent in a couple of ways. One is to do it without faith (legalism), or we can not be working at all the things that we ought to be working at. When people say, “So-and-so is a workaholic,” I think, “Well, sort of. But if you mean dad’s a workaholic because he’s at the office all the time and he never comes home, and when he comes home he’s on his phone and he’s on his computer, then he’s really lazy in some other areas. He’s not working at all of the things that are important.”

So it’s not that God says, “You don’t have to work hard at a bunch of things.” No, you do, but you can be working in the wrong way, not from faith, or you can be working at these things. To rest is hard work. To discipline yourself and set up those routines and have that rhythm in life where you rest can be hard work. So anyone who has the idea that part of my Christian life is going to be striving and effort and diligence, and then part of it won’t, I think doesn’t have the full orbit view of what the Christian life is. Every part of it is going to require that faith and it’s going to be a joy so that it’s not burdensome, and then you’re going to have to teach your legs to flop. It’s going to be hard to do it. It’s going to be hard if you love your work and you love the accolades that come from it to spend time with your kids. Just saying you’re working too hard is not the answer. You’re not working at all the things that are most important to God.

David Mathis: Some may sense a tension between your critique this morning, Kevin, of a single-focused sanctification and John’s articulation over the years of the pursuit of joy in sanctification. You guys worked it out some over lunch. Can you help here with the tension for the audience?

Kevin DeYoung: John worked it out and I agreed. It made sense. He’s totally got it.

John Piper: I was sitting there thinking, “He’s talking about me.”

Kevin DeYoung: I was sitting there thinking, “I hope he doesn’t think I’m talking about him.”

John Piper: Christian Hedonism says you should always want to be happy and that in all of your behavior and obedience you should be pursuing maximum joy in God — always, no exceptions. It also says that every act of obedience, if it’s an act of gospel obedience, should be an obedience of faith. Whatever is not from faith is sin (Romans 14:23). And therefore, I’ve got some always-es. Every obedience is from faith. Every obedience is in the pursuit of maximum joy. Now, what Kevin was critiquing was the onlys, not the always-es in my way of thinking. So I was doodling while he was talking, trying to draw the difference. Here’s what I came up with. I was listening to whatever page it is in his book where he has 40 incentives listed. It’s not just one but 40. There are 40 kinds of motivations, he calls them. They are things like wrath and imitation and duty.

I’m reading that list thinking, “Amen, amen, amen. They function that way for me. That’s exactly the way they work.” And someone could say, “Well, why? I thought you were just the joy and the faith guy. Why all these others, and why is that not a contradiction?” I thought, “I’ve got a category confusion in my head.” I did. I think it’s clearer now. What I’m doing is that I’m asking, given every deed that we’re called to do, what makes it a good deed? Not a legalistic deed, and not a deed done for show, or whatever can corrupt and ruin the deed. It’s a good deed. God says it’s good. Anybody would say it’s good biblically. What makes it good? My answer is, essential to obedience is the pursuit of joy. Essential to obedience is the reliance upon the promise and the act of faith. That’s what makes it what it is.

Then you go out here and see 40, 50, or 100 kinds of things God does to help make that happen. So I’m not including that out here. I’m not taking joy and putting it out here as one of the 40, or faith and putting it out here as one of the 40. I’m saying, “No, no, that’s always there, and that’s what makes obedience obedience.” And then if God says, “I’m going to put you in hell if you don’t do that,” that works. And the that is to rejoice. God loves a cheerful giver. I don’t regard that cheer is one of 40 reasons for giving; I’m saying that’s what makes the giving pleasing.

Or when it says, “Whatever is not from faith is sin,” any act that doesn’t have faith in it is sin. It’s not obedience if it lacks that. And so faith is not one of those 40, it’s right there, it’s part of the essence of what makes the obedience obedience. So for Christian Hedonism, one way to say it would be that it’s not to decide which of the 40 or 50 incentives is most important; rather, it’s trying to decide what makes an act pleasing to God. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. That’s my way of saying every single act, in order to be maximally God-glorifying, must have in it a reliance upon all that God has done for me and what he’s going to be for me so that I’m content, restful, satisfied in him, and pursuing the maximum experience of that in this act. And then God can do 100 things to help me in that, from imitation to wrath to duty. Yes, that’s my duty. Happiness is my duty, and on and on and on. So that’s the way I put it together.

Kevin DeYoung: That is exactly right and fits and melds all of that together. I mean just to clarify what I was saying, I don’t want anyone here or any Christian to think that they can’t theologize with these incentives, or they can’t spin them up and drill them down and do a lot of different things with them. One of my burdens, I think, is that we would not rob the unique mood of the various scriptural texts. Scripture comes at you with the truth and with a mood. There’s a warning here. And maybe you take the warning in 2 Peter 3:18, which says, “What sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness considering Christ’s return?” Now, you could take that and you could say, “Well, why do you want to be holy when Christ returns?” It’s because you don’t want to be judged. Why don’t you want to be judged? Because you want to live with him forever. Why do you want to live with him forever? Because you want to spend eternity with God. I’m happy to have all of those connections being made.

What I just don’t want is to rob the force of a text to hit you with a feeling of, “That’s a warning. I better feel something.” There’s a mood here, and I want to so turn every one of those angles and edges in Scripture so that then it hits you with a mood. As a preacher or a small group leader, some people might think you have to massage anything and they don’t think we should be hit with that kind of feeling in our guts, and so people turn it into, “Well, really he’s saying, ‘Your acceptance is in Christ . . .’” I just want to let Scripture speak to us with all of the specificity and all of the unique emotional force that it has for us.

John Piper: Amen. Can I give you an illustration? I’ll try to keep it short. Here we are at the end of 1 Corinthians 11. I just wrote a blog on this a few weeks ago because that very point clobbered me. He wants them to change their behavior at the Lord’s table, and he says, “Anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged (become sick and die). But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:29–31). So God kills us to keep us from going to hell if we abuse the Lord’s Supper, sometimes.

Now, I can imagine a person who does not want that mood to be a part of any service, so he just will not preach on this. He won’t talk about this. He won’t ever say that to his people because he thinks that’s just going to make people unhappy, or depressed, or discouraged, or scared, or lose their assurance of salvation, or confused, or whatever. I love this guy because he’s just so Bible-saturated, and that’s why I long for you to be Bible people. So what I wrote was I want to become the kind of person who feels loved by the Lord in every way he loves me, including killing me. That’s what it says. That’s what it says.

He makes us sick and dead so that we won’t be condemned along with the world. That’s how much he loves us. And if I don’t feel loved when the Bible talks to me that way, I need to change, not the word. I need to change. So I just totally agree that the tone of the text, the point of the text must not be muted. I mean, I can imagine a pastor preaching on this and he just read it and he says, “Now this is all about love.” And he just won’t ever use the word dead. They’re dead. They’re burying Christians that the Lord took because they were so callous towards the Lord’s Supper. And they’re his children. He loves them. He died for them. So yes, we want to have the whole effect of Scripture. That is one of the incentives for a happy, faith-filled experience of communion.

David Mathis: Here’s the final question. Hebrews 12:14 says that there is a holiness without which we will not see the Lord. What is the meaning of that verse, and how does that relate to us being fully accepted by God on the basis of another’s holiness?

Russell Moore: Well, we’re called into the life of Christ. So when Jesus died for us and was raised from the dead for us. He joins us to himself. So someone who does not share in that life, who isn’t joined to the vine — “I’m the vine and you are the branches” — won’t see him. I thought it was interesting when Pastor Piper was talking about the legs flopping over and the mind having to speak to the legs in a person’s life, that’s exactly what Colossians says is going on in the corporate life of the body of Christ. The energy that comes from the head now goes to all the parts of the body. So if I am alive in Christ, then Christ’s life is now coursing through me as part of the Body of Christ. So if I’m not experiencing that, I am not going to see the kingdom of God. The same kind of language I’ll talk about later tonight is what the Apostle Paul uses to that church at Corinth. He says, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?” (1 Corinthians 6:9). And then he says, “But such were some of you” (1 Corinthians 6:11) You share in Christ’s holiness and that works itself out in the way that you live. If that’s not present, you’re not alive.

Kevin DeYoung: Christ is a gift to us. Calvin called him a double grace, of justification and sanctification, so that you could just as soon split Christ apart as split those two things apart. At the end of the age, when there is this call for some sort of evidence or fruit, I love how you said it: progress. It’s where you’re going. That’s what you talked about, Ed. It’s a public vindication, I think, of both us and in a way of God at the end of the age. Here’s one that’s justified, one that’s going to heaven. You say there’s grace abounding in him or her. Can we see a little bit of that, even in the thief on the cross, a little to say, “Yes, that’s accurate”? That’s a vindication of what’s going on in us and also this public scene of God. God has done something in this person’s life, and God is right to have justified them, and now there is something to show of this glorification which will be complete. And he who begins a good work will be faithful to complete it. And here it is. He says, “Yes, this is my child. This is one I love, and here’s what I’ve started. And now I have every right to finish it.”

John Piper: So, to boil that down, the answer to your question is that “pursue the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” means there is a measure of holiness required in order to, not justify us, but demonstrate that we’re justified, give evidence that we are justified. It is essential. You will be lost if you don’t have evidence that you are justified. So sanctification is not optional. If you have no sanctification, you’re not born of God. Those who are born of God do not continue in sin, meaning give up on the fight and surrender to the flesh and say, “Once saved, always saved, so I’m safe,” and live like the devil the rest of their life thinking eternal security means that. It doesn’t. Eternal security means those whom he justified he will sanctify and finally glorify.

I think the reason God set it up that way is because he wants there to be a public vindication of his Spirit and power and work in the lives of his justified people at the last day. The thief on the cross may be helpful to consider for those of you who are worried about quantification here. Because that is where you start moving to thinking, “Okay, how much do I have to have? How much do I have to have?” The thief on the cross had a very small file of good works and a very large file of bad works. Let’s just say he was 40 years old. He got saved two hours before he died on the cross. I do believe he got saved because Jesus said, “Today you’ll be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). He had 39 years and 364 days of bad works. Everything he did was sin up until that moment. So the file is totally jam-packed with bad works that are going to condemn him to hell if he has to take the credit for those.

Jesus said, “You’re going to go to heaven.” I don’t believe he’s exempt from the judgment according to works. So at the last judgment, as he stands there and all the condemning demons are around accusing and laughing up their sleeve at this guy, saying, “He’s going to pass the judgment according to works?” God opens his file cabinet and goes to the back and pulls out this little skinny file of good works and he says, “When I touched him on the cross, he turned to his fellow thief and rebuked him and confessed his own sin before him and humbled himself and said, ‘We deserve to be here, and this man has done nothing, so why are you talking like that?’ That’s the evidence I will put on the table of the courtroom that he’s mine.” And then he just burns up the rest of the file, or puts it under the blood of Christ. That’s all it took. That’s all it took. What’s required is not a quantity but a reality. Is there a reality in your life that will be able to show on the last day that you’re born of God?

David Mathis: John, would you close this in prayer?

Ed Welch Just one second. That’s such a can of worms. That’s a tough one.

John Piper: Go ahead.

Ed Welch: I’m just trying to think where I can go with those things. John, would something like this be appropriate, to go to my elders and say, “Here’s my life. Do I need to be excommunicated?” If I’m going to a church that does church discipline, for my life to be available to them and then for them to say, “No, you are a member in good standing of this church”? It’s not quite going where you’re going, but am I allowed to bring some kind of hope like that into the text?

John Piper: I don’t understand the question.

Ed Welch: I’m still quantifying holiness and I’m thinking, “Well, I look at myself and I hear what you’re saying and just I can find all kinds of ugly things.” Would it be permissible to say, “Okay, well there are these corporate means of grace, and church discipline is one of them. If I’m not being disciplined by my church, then is this evidence of them seeing the grace of God in me and being in Christ?”

Kevin DeYoung: So you’re saying the elders — depending how you understand polity — have the keys of the kingdom to bind and to loose, and you’re saying assurance is a community project. So the elders of your church are saying, “We see evidences of grace in you. We don’t see anything disqualifying since you are a member here in good standing.” And it seems to me the other piece of this is to remember that perhaps the most precious, rare, exquisite, good work before the Lord is true repentance. It’s not as if, well, every day I just have bad works and good works all piling up. One of the Puritans said that repentance is the vomit of the soul. That’s a hard, ugly, nasty thing to do. It may be that among the most beautiful splendor of holiness in our life, to ornament God’s gospel, is that he can say, “He repented, and he hated that sin.” That’s a huge part of the evidence.

John Piper: I’m totally lost. The frog jumped to a lily pad. I need a line drawn. Keivn, you’re sitting between us. You’re supposed to help draw me with the line.

Kevin DeYoung: I thought I did.

John Piper: I’m the only one who’s lost. Everything you guys just said makes sense, but I’m saying, what does that have to do with what I said?

Ed Welch: It doesn’t. I’m thinking personally, but I’m also speaking, I think, on behalf of a number of people I know who would think, “That’s a tough passage. That is a hard passage.”

John Piper: The thief on the cross?

Ed Welch: No, the Hebrews passage.

Kevin DeYoung: He is saying the church provides a precursor of this final judgment and evaluation to come, which should give the tender conscience some assurance.

John Piper: That’s helpful. Thank you.