On October 2, 2016, in his sermon titled "Four Evidences of a Disciple", Pastor Mark Fitzpatrick of Arann Reformed Baptist Church, looked at John 8:31-32. He showed that a true disciple knows true freedom in Christ and exhibits these four evidences:
- Conviction regarding Christ
- Continuance in following Christ
- Comprehension of Christ
- Change/Conversion to Christ
Under the second point, Pastor Fitzpatrick exhorted the listener to continue in the Word of Christ to be made free. His comments have truly helped me in my walk with the Lord. I've struggled for years with besetting sin that I just couldn't (or wouldn't) mortify. I realized that I have been trying to dress up the old man rather than putting on the new man (Col. 3:9-10). But in Christ, I am a new creature: "old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new," (2 Cor. 5:17)! I pray that you find his sermon as helpful as I have. I've included my notes below (written in the third person rather than the second person as preached):
"The genuine heart of a believer realizes that he is in bondage; he is a slave to sin. True freedom is found in the Word of Christ. Romans 6:15-16 shows us that every time a believer sins, he is the servant of sin. A true disciple is changeable, but God is immutable. The more a believer continues in the Word of Christ, the more like Him he shall become. The old man is still in every believer. The way to overcome the old man, the only way, is by ministry to that new nature that God has given him. A believer will never change the old man; that's religion. Religion tries to reform the old man, the old nature. The old nature is irreformable; that's why we've been given a new nature. That's the argument of Romans 7. There's this constant battle between the two wills in the believer. Forget about reforming the old man. Feed the new man. Every time a believer falls into the habits of the old man, he needs to put him to death in the mind--ignore the old man, feed the new man, the new nature. A true believer continues in God's Word, but the old man does not want to do that. This is the key, the secret of the Gospel. The religious person wants to reform himself, just make himself better. This is impossible.
God has begun a good work in the true believer; therefore, he should work with God in that new work. God does not try to reform the old nature; He knows it is impossible because the old nature has been corrupted by sin. That's why God starts a new work, a new life in the believer. Therefore, if the believer tries to mend the old, he is doing a job that God is not doing. Focus on what God has begun and operate in that context. We operate in the context of what God is doing. When we do anything different, we are working against the plan and purpose of God. The practical benefit of this is that it delivers us from depression. Because the more the believer tries to reform the old nature, the more depressed he will become because he cannot do it. What he can do is act in operation with the new life God has put within him and that will bring encouragement and blessing to his soul. And when he has moments when the old man has ascendancy, then he confesses that sin and moves on to what God is doing. This is central to have the freedom and liberty as a child of God.
Matthew Henry said: 'Justification makes us free from the guilt of sin by which we are bound over to the judgment of God and bound under amazing fears. Sanctification makes us free from the bondage of corruption by which we were estranged from that service which is perfect freedom and constrained to that which is perfect slavery.'
Gospel truth frees the true disciple from the yoke of the law and the more grievous burdens of the traditions of the elders. It makes us free from our spiritual enemies. Free in the service of God. Free to the privilege of sons.
To know the Gospel is to be made free. A true disciple does not have to wait for that. That is justification by faith. Knowing the Gospel makes us free. Knowing Christ makes us free. His life in the believer. Greater is He that is in the believer than he that is in the world. It does not matter how great the sin because the believer has a greater Savior. Therefore, his confidence is not in himself. Romans 2 -- a believer has no confidence in the flesh; that's the old man. The Gospel delivers the true disciple from fleshly confidence and from fleshly striving, thinking that he will just be better today. He will never be better. That's what the Gospel delivers him from, from himself, his old nature. The Gospel makes the believer free from thinking that he has to perform for God, to impress God. That's the Good News -- the liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Sanctification is not achieved when a believer becomes sinless because he will never become sinless in this life. Sanctification begins and progresses when he continues in the Word of Christ. It's not a ceasing from sin; that's impossible. Sanctification is loving Christ, loving His Word and continuing in His truth.
Satan's end is not to get the believer to sin. That's only the means to the end. Satan's real goal is to get the believer to give up. He wants the believer to stop following Christ. Sin is less important because Christ has dealt with the sin; it's forgiven. Satan wants the believer to stop continuing in the Word of Christ because when he continues in the Word of Christ he is made free. Sin is the greatest encouragement to continue in Christ. The more sin raises its ugly head in the life of a true disciple, the more zealous he should be to cling to Christ. But the devil is wickedly clever to use sin in the life of a believer to discourage him. God uses sin in a believer's life to encourage his need for Christ."
"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free," (John 8:32).