The Obstacles of Worship (Gospel Preaching and Sanctification, part 8)



We've seen from many angles how the gospel sanctifies believers even as it saves unbelievers. Why is it difficult to grasp, embrace, and apply this concept? Why is it so much easier to do outward religion than to come sensing a desperate need for Christ? Why is it so much easier to amass intellectual knowledge from the Bible than to come with heartfelt desire for His transforming power found in the gospel? Why is it so easy to be distracted by secondary or debatable matters, or even matters of personal preference? Why is it easier to have a critical spirit toward others than a broken spirit of humble repentance regarding ourselves? In other words, Q16.

Question #16. Why is my natural motive something other than a pressing desire to see the glory of Christ? 

Because to some degree I still fail to see (1.) Christ's majestic beauty that is worthy of all my love, and (2.) my severe daily need for His sanctifying grace. And when I do not see my ongoing need for sanctifying grace, I will always seek other things as more precious, valuable, and relevant than my risen Lord. 

Falling short in seeing His beauty and my need are the twin obstacles of true worship. For this reason Paul prays that believers: 

"...may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, [19] and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:18-19)

We do not see Christ's beauty because we do not see our need. His beauty, after all, is His gracious love, and that is precisely our ongoing need. The more we see our need for Christ and Christ's majestic beauty, the more our hearts are flooded with a longing to see, know, and worship Him.

Question #17. What can help me overcome these obstacles? 

God's law, rightly understood and rightly used, can help me. 

By law we mean God's holy commandments that have revealed His holy character. We mean both what God requires and forbids for creatures made in His image and living in His world.

"But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, [16] since it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy.'" (1 Peter 1:15-16)
"So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good." (Romans 7:12)

Question #18. Why can God's law help me? 

First, it shows me the depth of my sinfulness and turns me to Christ for mercy. Second, it shows me my pathetic weakness and turns me to Christ for strength.

Law reveals sin for what it is. 

"Through the law comes knowledge of sin." (Romans 3:20)
"What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, 'You shall not covet.'" (Romans 7:7)

Law reveals the depths of our inner corruption. 

"Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. [14] For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin." (Romans 7:13-14)
"For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. [19] For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. [20] Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. [21] So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. [22] For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, [23] but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members." (Romans 7:18-23)

Law was never meant to save. 

"Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary." (Galatians 3:19)
"Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law." (Galatians 3:21)
"For the law made nothing perfect; but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God." (Hebrews 7:19)

Law is meant to drive sinners to Christ. 
"For Christ is the end [i.e., goal] of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." (Romans 10:4)
"Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? [25] Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin." (Romans 7:24-25)

Beloved, since we are still sinners, let us then use the law to drive us to Christ. Never go to the law as a source of sanctifying grace, but the law can help us see and sense our need for sanctifying grace, which is found by looking to Christ in faith.