Children Desiring God Conference – Friday Morning – April 27, 2007
Session III started immediately with Wayne Grudem continuing his message from the previous session. Earlier he had unpacked the gifts of election, the gospel call, regeneration, faith and repentance, and justification. This second message was an explanation of adoption, sanctification, perseverance, death and the intermediate state, and glorification.
“Adoption is an act of God whereby he makes us members of his family.”
1. Scriptural evidence for adoption.
There’s a sense in which all of humanity is God’s offspring (Acts 17:28), but the Bible is more specific regarding believers (John 1:12; Rom. 8:14-17; Gal. 3:23-26).
2. Adoption follows conversion, and is an outcome of saving faith.
God adopts us in response to saving faith. (Gal. 4:6)
3. Adoption is distinct from justification.
“Regeneration has to do with our spiritual life within. Justification has to do with our standing before God’s law. But adoption has to do with our relationship with God as our Father.”
4. The privileges of adoption.
If earthly fathers give good gifts, God gives even better gifts. (Matt. 7:11) God gives us guidance that is always consistent with his Word. God disciplines us because we’re His children. (Heb. 12:5-6) It is important to teach children that in their relationship with God, their heavenly Father, they can please or displease Him, but yet they retain their status as sons and daughters. Of course, it also works this way in a healthy biological family.
This helps children to understand that our actions really do matter. We can come under our Father’s displeasure. Does he still love us? Yes. Is he saddened? Yes. This should encourage zeal for holiness. It does not lead to legalism (because justification is a “done deal”), and it doesn’t lead to carelessness toward sin, because our relationship with God is truly impacted by sin.
When kids do things that are wrong and apologize to restore the relationship, this is a helpful picture of the regular confession and repentance God longs for in His children.
“Sanctification is a progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives.”
This means that God changes believers — makes them better. This is understandable for children because they naturally want to be good.
1. Dr. Grudem outlines some differences between justification and sanctification:
Justification – Sanctification
Legal standing – Internal condition
Once for all time – Continuous throughout life
Entirely God’s work – We cooperate
Perfect in this life – Not perfect in this life
Same in all Christians – Greater in some than in others
2. Dr. Grudem discussed three stages of sanctification:
A. Sanctification has a definite beginning at regeneration. (Tit. 3:5; I. Cor. 6:11)
At the moment of conversion, we are set apart unto God. We have a new desire to please Him.
B. Sanctification increases throughout life. (Phil. 3:13-14; Heb. 12:14)
The older we get, the more we should be walking with Jesus. So we can think of an older man who is an example of godliness.
“You know Grandma Helen? You know, someday you will be like that. That’s how God designed things. Grandma’s body is weak now, but she really knows Jesus well. And she’s really, really wise, because she’s read God’s word her entire life. And do you think she’s happier? Yes, she is….And you can be like that when you’re older, if you stay close to Jesus.”
C. Sanctification is completed at death (for our souls) and when the Lord returns (for our bodies). (Heb 12:23)
D. Sanctification is never completed in this life. (Matt. 6:11-12; I John 1:8; I Tim. 4:12-15)
Timothy was in his thirties when he was told to “not neglect his gift…practice these things (exhortation, reading Scripture, teaching)” (I Tim. 4:12-15). Dr. Grudem drew out the point that if people were to see progress in Timothy’s life, it means they had to see him mess up on occasion (and less so as he grew older). Adults, therefore, should admit to kids that they make mistakes. It is hard to listen to a pastor who always uses himself as a good example. At the same time, a pastor who has been a Christian for 40 years should not always use himself as a bad example. How would that set an example of progress to the flock? On the contrary, new believers may get discouraged and figure, “If he’s still living that way after 40 years, then it’s hopeless for me.”
3. God and man (God and the child) cooperate in sanctification. (Phil. 2:13)
Both God and the redeemed sinner have a role in sanctification. God changes us, gives us the ability to obey. And then we need to be active – we strive and work out our sanctification the strength which He supplies.
4. Sanctification affects the whole person.
5. Motives for obedience to God in the Christian life.
Dr. Grudem listed 11 motivations for obedience:
A) a desire to please God and express our love to him
B) the need to keep a clear conscience before God
C) the desire to be a “vessel for noble use” and have increased effectiveness in the work of the kingdom
D) the desire to see unbelievers come to Christ through observing our lives
E) the desire to receive present blessings from God on our lives and ministries
F) the desire to avoid God’s displeasure and discipline on our lives (the fear of God)
G) the desire to seek greater heavenly reward
H) the desire for a deeper walk with God
I) the desire that angels would glorify God for our obedience
J) the desire for peace and joy in our lives
K) the desire to do what God commands, simply because his commands are right, and we delight in doing what is right
6. The Beauty and Joy of Sanctification (Gal. 5:22; Rom. 14:17)
[Chapter 39 of Systematic Theology is on the empowering of the Holy Spirit, and (Wayne explained), an “interlude in this series of chapters on what is sometimes called the order of salvation”. It was therefore not covered in these messages.]
“The perseverance of the saints means that all those who are truly born again will be kept by God’s power and will persevere as Christians until the end of their lives, and that only those who persevere until the end have been truly born again.”
The Bible teaches two foundational truths that we must keep in tension:
1. All who are truly born again will persevere to the end
2. Only those who persevere to the end have been truly born again
Assurance is important for children in a scary world. We need to tell them that “No matter how hard things are, God will protect you, God will guard you.” But we also need to say: “Don’t ever turn away from Him. The Bible never says Jesus is going to save you even if you stop trusting and believing in Him.”
3. The Bible contains warnings that those who finally fall away may give many external signs of conversion.
Dr. Grudem noted that Judas seems to have fooled the other disciples in that they weren’t all pointing at him when Jesus said at the Last Supper, “One of you will betray Me.” Indeed, those who finally fall away may give many external signs of conversion. (Matt. 7:21-23) Yet, Dr. Grudem noted, Judas probably didn’t demonstrate much fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5). After the fact the disciples may have looked back and said, “Yep, we should have seen that he wasn’t truly one of us.”
4. So what can give a believer genuine assurance?
A. Do I have a present trust in Christ for salvation? (Not just something I once had 20 years ago.)
B. Is there evidence of a regenerating work of the Holy Spirit in my heart?
C. Do I see a long-term pattern of growth in my Christian life?
IX. DEATH AND THE INTERMEDIATE STATE
We can and should teach children about death. Kids generally have to come to grips with it before they are too old, as grandparents and/or other loved ones die. We must tell them the sad truth that people die. But the good news is that God preserves us through death and into the intermediate state. [The “intermediate state” refers to that period of time after our death and prior to the 2nd coming of Jesus.]
1. Why do Christians Die?
A. Death is not a punishment for Christians. (Rom 8:1)
So if we’re forgiven, why do we still die?
B. Death is the final outcome of living in a fallen world. (I Cor 15:26)
The last enemy to be destroyed is death. God has not yet given us the blessing of freedom from death.
C. God uses the experience of death to compete our sanctification. (Phil. 1:20)
Paul was eager that Christ be honored by his death. Many older people suffer in their latter years, and they long to be with Jesus. This longing is an aid to their sanctification.
D. Our experience of death completes our union with Christ.
E. Our obedience to God is more important than preserving our own lives.
We should read to children the biographies of Christian martyrs who “loved not their lives even unto death” (Rev. 12:11). Such stories feed the desires of young boys and girls to be brave and strong, and to stand for Christ even if it costs them everything.
2. How should we think of our own death and the death of others?
A. Our own death
Christians need not be terrified by the prospect of their own deaths. Death should be viewed with joy because of the union with Christ it will usher in.
B. The death of Christian friends and relatives
It is OK to be sad when others die. In Acts 8:2, the disciples cried when Stephen died, even though they knew he was in heaven. They were sad because he suffered so much in being stoned to death, and now they missed him. Sorrow is not wrong. Children should learn that there can be sorrow mixed with the comfort of knowing loved ones are at God’s side. Jesus Christ was sorrowful about the death of Lazarus, even though he was going to raise him from the dead moments later.
C. The death of unbelievers
We should avoid the danger of being overconfident about the salvation of others if their lives showed little or no fruit of genuine conversion. However, it is wise in many cases to say we do not know the final state of their souls. Dr. Grudem recounted a very powerful testimony of his leading a man to Christ, only to discover later that the man entered a coma the next day and would die.
3. What happens when people die?
A. The souls of believers go immediately into God’s presence
B. The souls of unbelievers go immediately into eternal punishment.
“Glorification is the final step in the application of redemption. It will happen when Christ returns and raises from the dead the bodies of all believers for all time who have died, and reunites them with their souls, and changes the bodies of all believers who remain alive, thereby giving all believers at the same time perfect resurrection bodies like his own.”
1. The New Testament teaches glorification (1Cor. 15:51-52)
2. Our resurrection bodies will be imperishable, glorious, powerful, spiritual bodies. (I Cor. 15:42-44)
3. The entire creation will be renewed as well. (Rom. 8:18)
We can teach this doctrine to children. What will our resurrection bodies be like? Not old and weak. They will be glorious! When we’re out enjoying the beauty of nature, we can teach kids “It is going to be far better when we’re in glory. Far more beautiful. Not just our new bodies, but the whole redeemed creation will be glorious.”
Children Desiring God Conference – Friday Morning – April 27, 2007