Thursday, November 05, 2009
Thinking through Motivation in Sanctification
What is our motivation to change?
Definition/Clarification of terms.
What is “Changing” or spiritual progress?: Not mere behavior modification, but modification based on changed affections. As Owen defines it: “cleaving unto God in all powers and affections of our minds.” (John Owen. Duty and Grace of Spiritual Mindedness, 382)
Practical consideration: How is a Christian given hope in the midst of unending struggle? What motives and encouragement exist for the Christian?
Pastorally, how do we respond to:
1)The Christian who wants to change but faces difficulty.
2)The professed Christian who does not want to change.
Possible Answers considered
Does one persevere in growth...
A) For Salvation? (-some Arminians, Roman Catholics)
One cannot be told that a Christian can have a salvation that is taken away due to their works. “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal 3:3) Although sanctification is necessary in salvation (Rom 6:22), it is not by works (Acts 26:18), just as salvation and justification can in no way be merited by Christians (Rom 3:20, 4:2-6; Titus 3:5-7; WCF 16.5)
(John 10:28, Romans 8:29, 8:35-39, Phil 1:6. Westminster Confession Ch 17.)
B) For Assurance? (-many Puritans)
Although salvation cannot be taken away, profession is not equivalent to possession.
1Jn 2:3-5 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says "I know him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him. (See also 2 Peter 1:5-10)
If we not only do not keep his commandments (as we will only do partially, and imperfectly) but also have no desire to keep his commandments, to love the law of God as a revelation of God's nature, then we cannot know that we are His. Yet, although this is a better answer than A, this is a standard of measurement, and not a proper motivation. Assurance as motivation can bring questions of the means of salvation, rather than the presence of love as evidential of salvation. Assurance then is an effect, a benefit of spiritual growth, not a singular motivation.
There is a difference between effect/evidence and motivation. Although “assurance” is a better answer than “salvation,” assurance is a benefit rather than a motivation for changing. Assurance as a motivation can bring questions about the means of salvation.
C) For Reward? (-many Free Gracers, pop Christian psychologists)
This could be an improper motivation. “Reward” is a vague term and could be false if it views spiritual growth as merely following the law, viewing the law as a merit-reward system. Although “reward” is a word and concept used in Scripture, it is not placed as a motivation apart from the Giver and is usually by means of gracious covenant (merited by Christ). Temporal and eternal blessing is function of the gospel, not the law. (Gal 3:10-13) Also, if the gift/reward is removed, what motivation does the believer have left? This would reveal a service to “the creation rather than the Creator.) (Romans 1:25) Therefore motivation should not be set upon a rewards-system (cf. Gal 3:11; Heb 11:13-16, 26)...unless we mean...
D) For God in Christ as our reward.
“there is, though not an absolute perfection, yet a blessed degree of heavenly mindedness to be attained, and therein the nearest approach unto glory that in this world we are capable of” (John Owen. Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded. 382) [Col 3:2-5]
By heavenly mindedness, Owen is not meaning mere reward but Reward, using Colossians 3, which directs us to “seek the things that are above, where Christ is.” Heavenly mindedness is Christ-mindedness, a reflection on God in Christ as the delight and reward of man, (Gen 15:1 KJV; Ps 33:1; modeled in Heb 12:2, John 6:47-65) that makes the law of God a delight (Ps 1; Rom 7:22), seeing God's will (1 Thess 4:3) as our greatest good. The chief end or purpose of man is stated as being glorifying and “enjoying” God (West. Catechism Q1). This too is not perfected but begun in this life. (Ph 4:4, Psa 16:5-11)
In this way, the motivation is a reward, drawn by love. The “why?” is answered in revealing Christ to the believer. Sanctifying grace, too, is irresistible to the degree that Christ is seen and draws the believer. Our ultimate answer to why we persevere in spiritual progress is: because we love Him. (2 Cor 5:14; Eph 3:17-19; 1 Thes 1:3; 2 Thes 3:5, etc.) So not by the Law (Gal 3:10-13, “The law was never ordained of God to convey grace or spiritual strength unto souls of men.” Owen Dominion), nor our wills in will-worship (Col 2:20-23), but by apprehending and experiencing Christ.
Here, the answers may be compared to a marriage. Does one do acts of love for a wife because A) she will leave you if you don't B) you are assured of her love for you C) she returns the favor or D) because you love her. All may be motiations at one time or another, but all are subservient to D.
The job of the pastor in counseling motivation towards spiritual progress, which ought to be understood as a change in affections (“cleaving unto God in all powers and affections of our minds.” as Owen describes it), the goal is a revealing of Christ in His Person, Work and Beauty that we may love Him, as motivation, sustenance, growth in affections and power unto spiritual growth.
We are to see Christ Who is the supremely beautiful, living, Good, joyful, glorious, and the summum bonum, and our motivation, in our best moments. If we truly are regenerate, we cannot help but change and make progress moving towards the object of our worship, adoration and love in so far as He is thought of and seen by the believer, even though He is clouded by our lack of perfect sight. We become like what we love and worship. Why do we spiritually grow in love for others? Because He first loved us in Christ. Why are we faithful, and not adulterous? Because God is faithful to us in Christ. Why are we truthful, for God is truthful to us in His promises.
To encourage, the aim of a pastor would not be to send them to their bare works, but to the object of their heart. A regenerate heart cannot remain completely cold to the Savior placed before them. The challenge is to place the Savior before the believer and cultivate a desire created by the vision and experience of Christ.
How Christ is seen: Christ must be seen to compel progress in the Spiritual life. Christ is seen in the Scriptures (Luke 24, John 6) in the Supper (1 Cor 10:16; 11:24-26), in Preaching (1 Cor 1:21, Romans 10:14-15) and in prayer and meditation. (Ps. 69:13; Luke 6:12)
So not by the Law (Gal 3:10-13, “The law was never ordained of God to convey grace or spiritual strength unto souls of men.” Owen Dominion), nor our wills in will-worship (Col 2:20-23), but by apprehending and experiencing Christ through the Means of Grace as the means of grace take on significance as a place to receive Christ, not a mechanical method.
Effects/Benefits of spiritual growth: Although the true motivation is love, the effects are multiple such as believers manifesting their thankfulness (Ps 116:12, Ps 116:13; 1Pet 2:9), strengthening their assurance (2 Pet 1:5-10; 1Jo 2:3, 1Jo 2:5), building up the church (Mat 5:16; 2 Cor 9:2), proving wrong the enemies of the church (1Pe 2:15), and glorifying God (Joh 15:8; Phi 1:11; 1Pet 2:12). (cf. WCF 16.2)