Spirit-Powered, Gospel-Driven, Faith-Fueled Effort
Kevin DeYoung gave one of the more helpful messages I have heard in some time at the recent Together for the Gospel conference. His title was Spirit-Powered, Gospel-Driven, Faith-Fueled Effort (video embedded below).
Justin Taylor has helpful put up his notes on the message. DeYoung started by noting what he thinks this “new Calvinism” or “Young, Restless, and Reformed” crowd is known for that is good:
We are, I believe, known for
- our commitment to the Scriptures,
- our commitment to expositional preaching,
- our commitment to the doctrines of grace,
- our commitment to biblical manhood and womanhood,
- our commitment to the uniqueness of Christ,
- our commitment to penal substitutionary atonement,
- our commitment to justification by faith alone, and above all
- our commitment to the centrality of the gospel.
But he indicates that there are two things that this resurgence is not yet known for: (1) a commitment to world missions (I’ll have more to say about David Platt’s message on that topic later), and (2) a commitment to personal holiness. It is to that latter topic that this particular message is devoted. I would suggest that perhaps many in the movement have yet to be committed to biblical ecclesiology as well, but nonetheless, surely these are two key areas.
I would highly recommend watching the whole video and looking over Justin Taylor’s notes, but here are a few things about the message that jumped out at me as being incredibly helpful.
(1) He was incredibly helpful in articulating why we we have to be careful with our language. While sanctification is “faith-fueled” and therefore is “by faith,” that means something different than when we say we are “justified by faith.” While justification by faith means that we contribute nothing to our sanctification, sanctification by faith does not mean that we contribute nothing to our sanctification. It means that we work by faith, that even as we work we trust in the Lord’s power at work in our lives. It seems like the gospel-centered movement, for all of the wonderful things it has contributed to the church in our times, seems to really like bumper-sticker theology that leaves itself open to a lot of confusion.
(2) He powerfully calls us to effort in our sanctification, not as a moralistic motivation to be better people, but a grace-founded call to “work out our salvation with fear of trembling.” Consider the following quote:
We must understand that when it comes to sanctification, we cannot simply tell our people, ‘Look to the Lord.’ We cannot only say, ‘Get gripped by the gospel,’ and then when they struggle say, ‘Well get really gripped and get more gripped by the gospel.’ We must also say, ‘Work! Make an effort!’
He talks about the fact that while there is a sense in which our sanctification and growth in grace flows from our justification and regeneration, there is also a sense in which it doesn’t “just happen.” We do have to work at it–for the right reasons, with the right motivations, always recognizing that our works do not make us acceptable to God. (See Justin Taylor’s notes again for a list of the Scriptures he uses to defend this idea.)
(3) He provided a corrective to some of the talk that happens in these discussions of law and grace. He says that he doesn’t really know any antinomians. Antinomians are those who, “It really doesn’t matter how I live. I can do whatever I want, even if it violates God’s law.” In Reformed circles, even among those who might frame all this differently, there probably aren’t many who really say to forget the law (at least in principle). But DeYoung does describe people who may be “nomophobic,” that is, those who are afraid to hear the third use of the law preached. That seems like an insightful distinction. I myself have thought at times that people were being antinomian, and it likely wasn’t true. But we can, as an overreaction to the legalism that has been prevalent in the American church in the past (and is always a battle in our own hearts), be afraid to hear God’s commands and instructions proclaimed in power as well, and if we would really grow in grace and holiness, we should be delighted as those redeemed by the Son to hear the precious words of the Law proclaimed.