Never Enough

What follows is a noteworthy article from Tabletalk magazine, January 2009:

For the Love of Slavery?
by John P. Sartelle

“Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in — who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery” (Gal 2:4).

She was eighty-six and her body was failing but her mind was clear.  The doctor had said she would not last the month.  I was on my way out of town for two days and stopped by her home.  After I read some verses from the Scriptures she asked a question that still rings in my ears after thirty-seven years:  “John, do you think I have done enough to be saved?”  I spoke to her of God’s grace to sinners and quoted passages about Christ dying for the ungodly.  Then I prayed with her and left.  She died the next day.  She had heard the gospel preached every Sunday for over a half century.  Yet, hours away from her death she was still striving to do enough to earn her salvation.

In Galatians 2:4 Paul speaks of some illegitimates in the church who were trying to add the performance of men to the gospel of faith alone in Christ alone.  He spoke of this as a return to slavery.  And that is exactly what salvation through the Law or through religious ritual is:  slavery.  I have lived in that slave camp.  In the morning I arose to the endless demands of the Law that I could not satisfy.  Oh, I worked hard to erect a façade that looked good to the world around me.  But at the end of each day, I knew that under my polished veneer were the dark, indelible stains of failure.  Thus, I went to bed each evening shackled to the Law.  Therein was a great irony:  The very Law that chained me was condemning me!  No matter how hard I worked at obedience, the Law cracked the whip with the constant mantra, “More, more…not enough…not enough.”

Then came Jesus.  He told me to trust in Him to do what I could not do — faith alone in Christ alone.  That was the key He put into the lock that held my chains.  Freedom!  Freedom from laws God made and freedom from laws man had invented.  Freedom from constant accusation and guilt; freedom from God’s judgment.  Was God’s law invalid?  No.  But His law could not save me.

If this freedom is so wonderful, then why was Paul forced to warn the Galatians not to return to the prison of endless efforts of self justification?  Who would want to return to that slavery?  I think the answer is deeper than merely pointing to some counterfeit teachers with a flawed theology.  There is a constant temptation, even in authentic Christians, to return to the self-praise of self-sufficiency.  Even as we grow in Christ and our lives look different to the world around us, it is easy to take credit for our holiness.  That is only a step away from attributing justifying merit to our service to Christ.

It is not easy to live with charity.  Javert, the law officer in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, could not live with the grace he had received from Jean Valjean.  He thought of himself as being morally superior to Valjean.  He would rather die than live with such a humiliating grace.  Gospel self-denial brings us to the admission of being helpless in ourselves.  Complete dependence on God’s grace gives glory only to Him.  It leaves no credit to self.  The remnant of sin in the Christian still desires the exaltation of self over the exaltation of Christ.  That is what drives us back to the prison and chains of the Law.

We could conclude by pointing to the joy of freedom as our motivation for holding fast to grace.  The prison of the Law ultimately holds only the despair of slavery.  However, it is not the joy, in and of itself, that will keep us from returning to prison.  The gospel of grace was not invented and accomplished by man.  The gospel of grace is the plan and revelation of God.  Our salvation is not dependent on fervor no matter how sincere.  Our salvation is dependent on dogma and the truth of that dogma.

Paul went to Jerusalem with Titus, a Gentile disciple of Christ, whom some insisted had to be circumcised before he could be a true Christian.  He had complete faith in the truth of the grace he had been teaching.  He did not go there in doubt of his message.  Neither did he go there doubting the message of Peter, James, and John.  He knew they had received the same truth that he had received.  He was bringing the heretical teaching of self-justification through the Law and ritual before the court of God’s revelation.  What a picture!  Peter, James, John, and Paul were in one room with other representatives from the church.  Peter, James, John, and Paul standing shoulder to shoulder proclaiming God’s revealed doctrine of faith alone by grace alone.  Titus went home uncircumcised!

Do you rest all your life on faith alone in Christ alone?  If you do, you know that you will never hear from the grace of Calvary: “More, more…not enough, not enough.”

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Reprinted from Tabletalk, January 2009, volume 33, number 1. Used by permission of Ligonier Ministries, home of Renewing Your Mind.

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Comments within the parameters of 1 Peter 3:15 are invited.

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About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.

This entry was posted in Gospel, Grace, Salvation, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

114 Responses to Never Enough

  1. subgenius says:

    rvales
    nobody says pray for a “feeling”…simply just read it and pray for an answer to if it is true. How or if you are answered is out of our hands.
    According to your premises how can the heart be deceptive if one walks in Faith? Do you propose that Faith exists in the mind only, that Faith is only discerned by the brain? by the heart? both? neither? since the heart may be deceptive then also the mind may be as well, after all you can’t believe everything you see and hear..can you?…i discern things altogether different i suppose…start with 1 Cor 2:14

    what exactly do you mean by a “state” of righteousness?

    …and yes, i realize that even Satan believes in God.

  2. rvales says:

    I mean do you think throughout your life you can become less sinful and less dirty in God’s eyes then you are right now? Is the purpose of the law to make us righteous? What is the ‘burning of the bosom’ is this not described as a feeling? How do you know that you have been given a witness of the truth? God tells us that our hearts are deceitful and that from them comes all manner of wrong (including baring false witness) (Matt 15:19; Jeremiah 17:9, Hosea 10:2, Mark 7:22). So if you get a feeling you take what seems like the answer back to the Bible and see if it measures up. My question was do you believe that Satan can appear as a spirit of light; not do you think he believes in God.

  3. I haven’t followed the conversation, but I saw that Ralph asked how the gift of faith could be identified in a person. 2 Peter 1:3-15 talks about this, namely making one’s “calling and election sure”.

  4. Ralph says:

    Aaron,

    That scripture does not answer my questions which were about how the person who is given the gift knows they have been given it, not other people. Also if someone doesn’t know they have been given the gift can they still be saved even if they are an atheist (ie faith without works saves and God has given them the gift of faith)? Then another one I asked was ” Can someone who openly admits that they have faith and accepted Jesus and follows God’s plan all their life, go to hell because God decided not to give that person the gift and so that person is delusional (I am talking about Evs, Born Agains, etc here, not LDS or JW, etc)?” Someone can have all of the things that this scripture describes throughout all of their life and say they have faith in Jesus, and if this scripture is true then they should have their calling and election sure. But what if God did not give them the gift of faith, can these people be saved or are they deluding themselves?

    But the scripture you reference also brings up new questions. What does it mean by being ‘DILIGENT to ADD’ to your faith, virtue, knowledge, etc (v 5)? Also v 10 says to give DILIGENCE to MAKE your calling and election sure – if its something Jesus does and we cannot lose it then why this statement about needing to MAKE our calling and election sure? Why does Peter say “if ye DO these things” (v 10) if our works are not involved with our faith? Then v 9 when Peter says “But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins” makes it sound very much like one can lose their salvation (just like Jesus taught in the parable of the unforgiving servant), especially when coupled with v 10 saying to GIVE DILIGENCE to MAKE our calling and election sure.

  5. As I said, I haven’t really followed the thread, but I’m not sure I understand how the answer didn’t address the question. Making our calling our election sure involves adding things to our faith to vindicate and authenticate the faith. And having the fruits of faith which (beyond the fundamental experience of faith) authenticate and vindicate the reality of our saving faith assures us that we have beeng given the gift of faith. Experiencing faith and its fruits assures us we have been given the gift of faith. Having joy in Christ based in his truth shows we have the gift of joy in Christ. Having love in Christ for others shows we have the gift of love in Christ for others. I’m not sure where you are going with the question apart perhaps from the issue of special spiritual gifts (like in the list of that Paul gives).

    As for the issue of endurance, please see http://www.theopedia.com/Perseverance_of_the_saints

    In short, warnings against apostasy and falling away serve to instrumentally keep those believing believing. I don’t believe they take away from God’s promise to preserve his elect (cf. Romans 8:28-30).

    Just because “doing things” is associated and correlated with faith doesn’t mean doing works needs to be built into the very definition of faith. Two things can be necessarily together but still distinct.

    I haven’t done a larger study on 2 Peter 1:9, but either sounds like he’s speaking of people who are saved but who haven’t appropriated the kind of assurance available to him. It sounds like he is encouraging these very people to add to their faith to gain the assurance and also to persevere. Definitive perseverance is required for the authentic Christian, but that doesn’t mean real Christians, when admonished to persevere, are at that very stage of their life exhibiting the fruits of perseverance. We are saved by faith, not by the assurance of faith. When we encounter someone (such as our own selves) who are not exhibiting the fruits of perseverance, the first order of business is not to WORK WORK WORK, but rather to remind ourselves that we have been forgiven of our sins by faith, and upon that foundation (once again reminded), then we are to press forward with holiness.

    Ralph, have you had your calling and election made sure? It’s a dynamic thing. God often reminds me that I am his!

    But in Mormonism, from what I understand, to have your calling election sure, you need to have the second anointing ceremony. Have you had that?

    Grace and peace in Christ,

    Aaron

  6. subgenius says:

    rvales
    a few of your references are out of context. But, yes one must not take the “heart” as the only source, Mormons do not consider it the only source.
    Psam 36:1 Matthew 5:8
    Read John 17:1-19 it is here on the brink of JC departing this world that he speaks volumes about His heart’s love for us, for His disciples, etc.
    Also, refer to St. Margaret Mary of the Catholic tradition in reference to the “sacred heart” of Jesus.
    Yes, Satan has many tools of deception and temptation, and yes, Satan most definitely believes in God.
    It seems to be ignored that Mormons study 3 Testaments…the Old, the New, and the BoM.

  7. setfree says:

    They don’t really, though, do they sub. What they study is the LDS manual of what those books say

  8. rvales says:

    Sub,

    How do you know that the feeling you get is the truth and that it’s of God and not Satan coming to you as a spirit of light?

    I don’t think anyone is ignoring anything. It doesn’t seem like Mormon’s study 3 testaments…It seems like they study a few verses out of God’s word and then cling tightly to doctrines that are not supported by the entirity of the Bible. If two verses in the Bible seem to be in contradiction how do you reconcile that? What if they are in contradiction with the BoM or your prophet which authority do you default to? Do you think that God would withhold the entire means of complete salvation from people? How does he decide when to reveal it? How is it that a living prophet trumps a dead prophet? There has to be a standard for all things and Christians know that standard is the Bible, if something contradicts the Bible then that something is in error. I didn’t say that Satan didn’t believe in God, I asked you if you believed that Satan can trick someone into thinking he is an angel of light? So do you think that you could mistake Satan for an angel of light?

  9. subgenius says:

    rvales
    i discern my “feelings” the same way you do….just because a person has Faith does not mean they have to become the Mr. Spock of religion. Plato was a philosopher, not a theologian, and it was he that first “reasoned” that emotions should be subordinate to reason, because they influence rational thinking. Is your Faith simply a rational experience? Do you enter the scriptures into a spreadsheet?
    1 Cor 2:14 1 Cor 15:46

    Verses that may contradict in the Ot and Nt or the BoM…Whaaa? say it is not so!…
    Matthew 1:16 vs Luke 3:23
    John 10:30 vs John 14:28 (this one is 4 falcon)
    Proverbs 4:7 vs Ecc 1:18
    I reconcile these things much like you do.
    God does not withhold means to salvation, he has provided several reaources, right?
    dead vs. living prophets? context is the answer, which has more relevance to the time we live in? how does the 10th commandment “progress” when viewed by the original statement wherein a wife was “property”; if it was not allowed to progress through revelation?
    The standard is the Bible, but more importantly the standard is God’s word. Do you assume that God has finished saying to us all that He has to say? all the He has to reveal?…not likely.
    Yes, anyone can be tricked by Satan, anyone. The real task is not to be tricked twice.

    James 3:13-18

  10. rvales says:

    No I don’t think God is done talking. But I know that thanks to Christ I don’t need a mediator between me and God. He reveals things to me. He reveals things to my husband, people in our small group, our pastor. The veil has been torn and I get to have a personal relationship with God!! Everything that I need for salvation has been written God speaks daily to me in those words guiding me and showing me how those words apply to my life today. The news is so good that He doesn’t have to add to it (and I can’t add to it). God took on flesh, humbled Himself so that He experienced humanity and lived a life without sin and then submitted himself to death so that He could be the death sacrafice that is required to pay for my sins. The good news is that He is risen doing what I could not do for me because he loves me that much! And He wants you to find that peace and rest in Him as well.

  11. subgenius says:

    rvales
    so, you believe in prophesyzing, yes?
    You say He is not done talking, but you claim He does not need to add anything.If the Bible is complete, what purpose does your Pastor play in your life?
    Yes, i know of the peace and rest He provides, for I am aware Our Heavenly Father’s love and support…every day. Thank you for the well wishes.

  12. setfree says:

    sub,
    did you miss the whole part of the Bible where it says that the Law and the Prophets were there to point forward to Jesus?

    Jesus is the point. He’s finished!

    What else do we need to know?

    The old Testament… points to Jesus

    The New Testament… witnesses of Jesus’ coming

    The Holy Spirit now indwells believers so that they can learn bundles from any and every Bible passage.

    Do you really think we now need something BESIDES Jesus?

  13. subgenius says:

    setfree
    yet there are many verses after John 19:30 🙂
    yet the deliberately and known to be edited-out manuscripts are irrelevant to you?
    Your statement that prophesyzing is over should be interesting to falcon since he has claimed to have had visions, etc…
    Your notion of the Bible being complete may be valid indeed at one time perhaps it was complete, but through the apostasy this “completion” is diluted, culturally influenced, fragmented and even perhaps revised.

    BESIDES Jesus? interesting assumption, why would you say that?
    John 14:28

  14. rvales says:

    Sub,

    I believe that people can have the gift of prophecy and that it is different than the prophets of the OT. This is something that I wish I were more learned at but I’m sure our friend Falcon would be glad to clarify for us. The role of my pastor is to help unpack Bible verses, explaining what was going on in that day the timeline of events and give examples of how it relates to modern day issues. It does not take the place of personal study and quiet time for God to reveal things to me.

    Sub, how does a Mormon have peace and rest when they are so responsible for doing all they can do?

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