25 January 2008

Reflections on Marshall's book - chapter 1

I've just started reading Walter Marshall's The Gospel Mystery Of Sanctification. The first chapter (introduction) has some simple, yet profound, comments on how important it is to work out HOW we are to become conformed to the image of Christ in holiness, rather than simply focusing on the WHAT of the Christian life. I'm eager to find out what he's going to say about this gospel sanctification, and preparing to be rebuked about how much I simply work on auto-pilot, rather than relying on God for the strength that He supplies to enable good works.

One of Marshall's comments in Chapter 1 is an insightful critique of a "Christianity" which devalues the empowering source of obedience, preferring a Just-do-it outward-results-oriented mentality. Walter comments:

When once [some people] know the nature and excellency of the duties of the law, they account nothing wanting but diligent performances; and they rush blindly on immediate practice, making more haste than good speed. They are quick in promising, 'All that the Lord has spoken, we will do,' (Exod. 19:8), without sitting down and counting the cost. They look on holiness as only the means of an end, of eternal salvation: not as an end itself, requiring any great means for attaining the practice of it. The enquiry of most, when they begin to have a sense of religion, is 'What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?' (Matt. 19:16); not, 'How shall I be enabled to do anything that is good?'

From: http://www.covenantofgrace.com/gospel_mystery_of_sanctification1.htm

I was reminded of the sinful mindset that sees a holy life as a necessary, but somewhat unpleasant, requirement of getting to heaven. I was rebuked in how easily I want to accept Jesus as my ticket to heaven, without embracing Him as the all-wise, all-trustworthy Leader for my daily life. We so easily disregard how repulsive and wrong a God devoid life is, and forget the wonder of the powerful grace of God to change us to make us actually do good! The bare-minimum-righteousness mindset creeps in so easily, as we embrace the easy-life-now-and-heaven-later, in preference to deeper reliance on and fellowship with God.

This teaching brings my mind to Deuteronomy 6:24, where we are told that all the teachings of the law are FOR OUR GOOD: The LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always...

A further reflection makes me ponder about Christianity and personality types. Let me explain. Marshall comments: ...they account nothing wanting but diligent performances; and they rush blindly on immediate practice...
This makes me wonder whether there are certain personality types, or certain dispositions, which would find this more of a temptation than others. Some people are geared to be more get-up-and-go practical concrete-thinking types, who don't seem to want to or need to dwell on motivations, or particular means, to inform obedience. At the other end of the spectrum are the more abstract, reflective thinkers, who, generally speaking, are slower-paced and tend to dwell on their motivations for things in greater detail.
Could the more practical types, therefore, be more likely to struggle with reliance on God and neglect gospel sanctification in their obedience? Or, conversely, could we even infer that this issue of having our motivations informed by gospel truth be a sometimes unhealthy introspective preoccupation of those with a more abstract, reflective way of thinking?

Just a few raw thoughts...


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