From Your Pastor: Pursuing Holiness in 2018

Dear Beloved, Loved by God, at KCPC,

As you plan your calendars for the new year of 2018, may you also have a plan for holiness. The Apostle Paul both encourages and commends the Christians at Thessalonica because their election by God was demonstrated very specifically in that the gospel came to them not only in word, but “also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Thess. 1:3-5). As a congregation, they had learned of God’s love for them in Christ, and they had become imitators of the Lord Jesus and other godly Christians. Even through great affliction, their faith and joy in Jesus shone through to all (1 Thess. 1:6-8). This was a sanctified congregation that possessed a measure of holiness by God’s grace. Yet the Apostle Paul encouraged them to “do so more and more”, and reminded them that the will and purpose of God was for them to be sanctified/holy (1 Thess. 4:1, 3, 8). They were to pursue holiness and grow in Christ.

How might we grow more and more in holiness in Christ in this coming year? As the Christians did at Thessalonica, it was primarily through a deeper knowledge of God’s Word by the power of the Holy Spirit. Here are some ways that other Christians before us have sought to grow in holiness. Let me encourage us to do the same in this new year, praying for the blessing of God’s Spirit in our flourishing and maturity as a congregation in Christ. Let us “more and more” pursue holiness (some of the below we have included in our worship services, so that you will do this at least once a week).

  1. Law of God/10 Commandments: Memorize the Law of God and go over it regularly on 2 hands and 10 fingers, remembering the 2 tables to love God and neighbor as self (cf. Matt. 22:37-39), and 10 commandments that summarize our privilege and duty in Christ before God. See how gracious God is in His condescension to sinners that He would make the summary of how to love Him and neighbor as ourselves so easy to memorize and meditate upon each day (Psa. 1)?!
  2. Lord’s Prayer: Memorize, and seek to regularly pray the Lord’s Prayer from the heart, meditating upon each petition regularly. Praying “Thy will be done” reminds us to be self-less, and dependent upon God’s Word alone, and praying “Forgive us our debts as we forgive…” reminds us to be merciful.
  3. Apostle’s Creed: Memorize, and seek regularly to think of these petitions and summaries of God’s salvation in Christ. Let your subjective faith that God has given to you by His Spirit, be built up in this objective summary of your most holy faith.
  4. Bible Reading/Meditation: Seek to regularly read through the Bible (perhaps annually?), and meditate upon truths that are highlighted by God’s Spirit to teach and guide you (I write them out on 5X7 cards for memorization, prayer, meditation, further Bible study, etc. I invite you to do the same if helpful). There are so many good apps for accomplishing this regular reading of Scripture, particularly helpful are the ESV Bible app (with many Bible reading plans), and Reading Scripture app that helps you to get an overview of redemptive-history and a helpful, Christ-centered introduction to each Bible book.
  5. Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechisms: Memorize these excellent catechisms with your family, starting with the Shorter Catechism, and then seeking to feed on and digest more fully the Larger Catechism. Much wisdom in these!!

I pray that this will be useful for us to grow in holiness “more and more” in 2018! All of this must be undergirded by unceasing prayer for illumination and power by Christ’s Holy Spirit. Remember, Beloved of Jesus, holiness means greater glory to our Covenant LORD and Triune God, and more happiness for us His people.

For true holiness is nothing more than true happiness!

“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (ESV 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

In Christ’s love,

Pastor Biggs

From Your Pastor: The Spirit of Holiness

“…Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him…” – ESV Ephesians 1:4

When the Eternal Son of God, the One who is eternally begotten, not made, who is very God of very God, became man, he took to Himself our nature, conceived by the Holy Spirit, from the substance of Mary (Luke 1:31-35). It is hard for us to understand, but the Scriptures teach that the Lord Jesus Christ, the only Redeemer of God’s people, became man, and so was, and continues to be, God and man in two distinct natures (human and divine), and one Person forever (see Shorter Catechism, Q&A 21).

This means that while the Eternal Son did not change in His Being or substance or power as God in the Incarnation (Heb. 1:1-3), by assuming our nature into permanent hypostatic (personal) union with Himself, He did become something He was not before, namely man (Heb. 2:14-18; 4:16-18). As our Redeemer, Jesus Christ serves as our Mediator, and we must seek to honor the One Person, and acknowledge properly and biblically the two natures of Christ.

In considering the Spirit of Holiness, we will focus on the human nature of Christ today. What was done by the human nature was done by the one Person, so that we understand that the Eternal God does not die, yet He who was God did die, as man. The one Mediator died for sinners, the one Mediator between God and man who is both God and man in one Person. Jesus was God-Man. How does the Spirit’s work on Jesus Christ, God-Man, help us understand our holiness before God that we find in Him? Let us understand this in a time when the true humanity of Jesus Christ is begin undermined or misunderstood. While our Mediator was God and Man, He was truly God and truly man.

As a man, he was our representative in permanent-personal union with the Eternal Son, and He had to perform perfect obedience before God as man. There is to be no confusion, or mixture of His divine and human natures, but careful distinctions made. We should want to stress in understanding Christ’s true humanity, that like us He depended upon the Holy Spirit for grace, although He was without sin, He was truly man, dependent as a creature upon Almighty God. As Joel Beeke writes: “Christ’s obedience in our place had to be the real obedience of a human being. He did not cheat by relying on His own divine nature while He acted as the second Adam. Rather, by receiving and depending upon the Spirit, Christ was fully depending upon HIs Father (John 6:38).”

John Owen wrote: “The Lord Christ, as man, did and was to exercise all grace by the rational faculties and powers of His soul, His understanding, will, and affections; for He acted grace as a man….His divine nature was not unto Him in the place of a soul, nor did [the divine nature] immediately operate the things He performed, as some of old vainly imagined; but being a perfect man, His rational soul was in Him the immediate principle of all His moral operations, even as ours in us…. [Christ’s] growth in grace and wisdom was the peculiar work of the Holy Spirit; for as the faculties of His mind were enlarged by degrees and strengthened, so the Holy Spirit filled them up with grace for actual obedience” (John Owen, Works, 3:169-170). Puritan Richard Sibbes  wrote similarly: “Whatsoever Christ did as man, He did by the Spirit” (R. Sibbes, Works, 1:102).

The Spirit of God that Jesus received from the Father is the same Spirit that the Father and the Son have sent to be within His people. What the Holy Spirit helped Jesus to do: live by faith, resist temptation, endure by grace, be a faithful servant, be comforted in affliction, etc. is what the Spirit still does for God’s people united to Jesus. The ministry of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus Christ has tremendous implications for believers’ holiness in Christ (Psa. 133; Isa. 61:1ff).  Jesus is our sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30). As theologian Mark Jones writes: “Jesus Christ, in His human nature, is the holiest man ever to have lived on earth. He exercised faith, hope, and love in a manner so extraordinary that if there were millions of worlds of loving creatures, they would not have, combined together, the same degree of love that was in the heart of our Savior. These graces bestowed upon Jesus did not remain on Him alone, but trickled down, as oil on His forehead, to His bride.” Jesus as exalted King poured out His Spirit upon His people (Acts 2:33).

We should understand that there was a twofold mission of the Triune God to secure the salvation of God’s people that are intimately (covenantally!) related, but should be distinguished: 1) The sending of the Eternal Son by His Father to become man and to perform and accomplish as Mediator of God’s people all of the acts of obedience unto death as Prophet, Priest and King; 2) The sending of the Eternal Spirit by the Father and Jesus the Enthroned King at God’s right hand to His people to enable them to follow Him in obedience and suffering and holiness until they would meet safely in heaven, and behold the Son face to face. This is the grace we speak of when we say that we do all things for Christ “because of His grace, by His grace, through His grace, in light of His grace, etc. The grace is particularly the “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” given to us by God’s Spirit to enable us (although sinful) to make progress in obedience and holiness (we are saved by faith alone but not a grace that is alone; we are saved to be holy and obedient unto God, Eph. 1:3-5, 2:10; Phil. 1:6, 2:12-13).

John Owen wrote: “If Christ is our mediator, our union with Him means not only that we must be holy (that it is necessary), but also that we will be able to be like Him (and in our motives desire this), and, of course, that we will enjoy being holy (in communion with Him).” The grace we need for sanctification as believers is the grace of God that is given to believers in and through Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 13:14). Whatever grace we received for our holiness first belonged to our Savior who is “full of grace” (John 1:16). To be holy is both to look at Christ’s substitutionary work for us in reconciliation, but it is also to labor after conformity to His image because of, and in dependence upon His grace in Christ (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4).

Although Christ was sinless and needed no grace as sinners need grace, nevertheless, Christ Jesus lived by faith in his estate of humiliation. Christ is the holiest man who ever lived and the greatest “believer” (or man of faith) ever to have lived (Heb. 12:2). There has never been, nor will there ever be, a more perfect example of living by faith than Jesus. By faith, He believed the word and promises of God. If Christ had not had faith, His people would remain in their unbelief; if Christ had not been vindicated (1 Tim. 3:16), adopted (Psa. 2:7; Rom. 1:4), sanctified (Rom. 6:9-10; John 17:19), and glorified (1 Cor. 15:35-49), His elect would not receive these blessings!

There is no grace we received by the Spirit that was not first present in Christ Himself, particularly the grace of faith. The Holy Spirit bestows all the blessings of Christ upon the members of His church only because they were first bestowed on Christ. Richard Sibbes wrote: “We have not the Holy Spirit immediately from God, but we have Him as sanctifying Christ first [not from sin, but consecrating him as man to the Father’s will], and then us, and whatsoever the Holy Spirit does in us, He does the same in Christ first, and He does it in us, because of Christ.”

The life of holiness is the life of faith. The way we begin the Christian life with faith is the way we continue in the Christian life until we get to heaven and faith becomes sight. Those who belong to Christ are as dependent upon the Spirit for their holiness as they are dependent upon air to breathe.  Just as Christ lived by faith and depended upon the grace of the Holy Spirit to work on His human nature, so we are likewise to live by faith and depend upon the Holy Spirit to enable us to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

In Christ’s love,

Pastor Biggs


* For further reading: ‘A Puritan Theology’, ed. Beeke and Jones; ‘Holy Spirit’, S. Ferguson; John Owen, ‘Works’, Vols. 1-4; ‘Hebrews’, Vol. 3; ‘Works’, R. Sibbes; ‘Antinomianism’, M. Jones.

“Why Have You Fallen On Your Face?” – The Questions God Asks Us

Word of Encouragement- Week Ending March 17th, 2012

Series: The Questions God Asks Us

“Why Have You Fallen on Your Face” – Joshua 7:10

The LORD said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. – Joshua 7:10-12a

There’s a time to pray and fall on our faces before God in repentance. But sometimes there is a time to prayerfully act to cleanse and purify ourselves as a congregation before God. God taught Joshua and the people that sometimes even more urgent than our prayers before God is the urgency to bring about proper discipline in the congregation because of sin.

God had greatly blessed Israel with His promises and covenant faithfulness. God had promised to be with Joshua and with Israel as they entered into to possess the Promised Land (Josh. 1-2). God had promised to give Israel everything that they would need for life and godliness as a congregation and they were to be consecrated to Him, holy as God is holy (Josh. 7:13). Rather than finding hope in the grace of God alone, Achan was tempted to be satisfied in something else. He coveted, and the entire congregation was guilty because of it.

Israel had failure in their spiritual war against Ai because ‘The people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things’. Israel was called to be God’s instrument of absolute judgment on Ai (and the Canaanites), but Achan from the Tribe of Judah ‘took some of the devoted things’. ‘And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel’ (Josh. 7:1). [*Note: “Devoted things” [Heb. “herem”] were lives and possessions that were to be totally obliterated before the face of God as a temporal judgment upon sin; nothing was to remain as a type of Last Day Judgment”].

Before a congregation can expect God to bless their labors and give them spiritual success in spiritual warfare, they must act to cleanse themselves from sin. God said to Joshua: “I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you” (Josh. 7:12-13). As God’s people it is important for a congregation to practice regular confession of sins in corporate worship, accountability, and biblical discipline to prevent impurity because of sins in a congregation.

Achan, who was the one responsible for God’s temporal judgment, confessed his sin of covetousness (although there were great consequences- Josh. 7:20-21, and there was also lying and stealing involved, Josh. 7:11). But his confession was not quick enough; Achan did not confess his sins willingly because he felt the weight of sin against God and the congregation. He apparently thought he could continue to hide in his sins without any consequences for himself or his church (see Josh. 7:16-19; cf. 1 Corinthians 5:1ff).

Although God knew where the sin was to be found, and the guilty party (because He is the searcher of our hearts), he appointed Joshua and the leaders to find the sin that was affecting the entire congregation (Josh. 7:14ff). Joshua searched and waited patiently, humbly and diligently for a confession of sin (when Joshua approached Achan, he was very courteous and humble in his discipline practice which is extremely exemplary and commendable to all Christians, Josh. 7:19). This kind of confrontation of another in the congregation is not easy, and should be soberly and humbly done with God’s leading (Josh. 7:14ff).

Is there anything worse than sin? Do you know that in Scripture sin is so dangerous it is vividly described as transgression against God, slavery, idolatry, leprosy, God’s punishment, insanity, etc.? Is there anything worse than sin? Just to think of how God is offended by sin should be enough to deter us! Think of the potential dangers of what one “little” sin can do to destroy a person, rip apart a family, and severely affect an entire congregation of God’s people?

Have you seen the horrendous damage that can be done because of unforgiveness, resentment, anger, child abuse, divorce, murder, rape, greediness, theft, division, grumbling, complaining, and/or incest??!! God is serious about judgment upon sin and its prevention in His people!

When we think about the discipline that is carried out in Joshua 7 of stoning and burning, we can be shocked and speechless. But I wonder why we can be more concerned at the kind of discipline in this passage than we are of the offensive sinfulness of Achan. Why are we not angry because God has been offended and His Spirit grieved? Why is it that we are not incensed and deeply angry because of covetousness, and the lying and stealing, and the affects of our sins on others? Shouldn’t we more shocked by the sin than the discipline that is recorded here?

The Bible teaches that discipline is important as an obedient response to God’s Word (Matt. 18:15-18; Heb. 12:5ff). Thankfully, discipline practices of the Old Covenant have changed since the coming of Christ, but the need for discipline is the same in every congregation. Why would we think otherwise? God saves a people, and completes His work in a people; God saves individuals to be part of a corporate church. Why would we not be accountable to God and to one another? I realize disciple has been abused, and there will be a day of judgment for the abuse of it as well as a day of judgment for those who have not practiced it as they should.

Biblical discipline is a loving practice.When our children flagrantly sin against God, themselves, and our families, we do not merely go to pray for them to show them our love. That we must do as well! But we also lovingly practice discipline which the bible teaches is one of God’s means of growth in grace and Christ-likeness (Hebrews 12:5ff).

ESV Proverbs 12:1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

ESV Proverbs 15:10 There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way; whoever hates reproof will die.

We love our children and we don’t want them to hurt themselves or others. In fact, the Scriptures teach that if we are not disciplined, we are not truly loved by God (Heb. 12:8). Therefore, it is important to note that discipline when done with grace, and with an eye toward restoring the sinful offender, is a great act of God’s love. Just as we love our children in this way in our family, so we should love one another in the church in this same way.

ESV Hebrews 12:6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

Biblical discipline can serve as a warning for both young and old of the consequences of sinning against God Almighty. Biblical discipline can protect our families, prevent sinful practices from growing and being nurtured in God’s church, causing the increase of sin and impurity in others. The truth is that we should have all by now been immediately judged for our sins against God and one another (see Acts 5:1ff). But God is patient and merciful toward us.

In the New Covenant, the judgment on Achan has fallen completely on the Lord Jesus Christ in our place. Can you see Jesus, the Beloved Savior, God in the flesh for us, taking our sin debt upon Himself; Jesus taking much more than a stone-crushing blow to the skull as He falls under the power of sin’s consequences on the cross.

Can you see God Almighty crushing Jesus under His mighty power and wrath for our sins (Isa. 53:10)? Can you see Jesus who knew no sin at all, becoming the sin-bearer of every last sin of all of God’s people past, present and future in the burning wrath and fury of God’s judgment (2 Cor. 5:21)?

Achan was punished for His sins and transgressions; Jesus was punished for our sins and transgressions. Rejoice!

Peace returned to Israel after Achan’s death; Peace comes permanently to God’s people through Jesus’ death (cf. Romans 5:1ff). Rejoice!

God was reconciled to Israel through Achan’s death and judgment; Believers are reconciled to God through the death and judgment of Christ in our place. Rejoice!

Achan’s suffering because of His sins healed Israel; Jesus’ suffering because of our sins heals all of God’s people. Rejoice! The Bible teaches:

He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. – Isaiah 53:5

As believers, our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed for us and this is all of grace, so that we will live purely for Him. We are unleavened as God’s people; sin has been removed from us in Christ and so we are to live like it as a congregation! Let us listen to the Apostle Paul in a similar New Covenant situation:

“Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” – 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8

As we consider the grace of the Lord Jesus, let us seek to be accountable, and to hold each other accountable in sincerity and truth; the leaven of sin will leaven the whole lump of the congregation! No man is an island, certainly not a Christian. We are in fact all part of one body in Christ (1 Cor. 12). Every person’s sin, including mine (and how I know this so deeply and sadly!), grieves God Almighty (Eph. 4:30) and has terrible consequences and harmful affects on my family and my congregation.

So, let us act humbly before God. Let us be patient and loving, but let us seek to love one another enough to discipline and hold each other formally accountable (Heb. 13:17; 1 Cor. 5:9-13). Let us speak and live the truth together in love. Recognizing that we are all potentially dangerous and sinful people, who are tempted with covetousness and other forms of idolatry that only Jesus Christ can heal (1 Cor. 10:12-13; 1 John 5:21; Col. 3:5).

“Why have you fallen on your face?”

If you have been convicted by the Spirit of your sins, then confess them. If you confess your sins, then go and make any restitution that needs to be made with others. Believe that if you confess your sins, God is faithful and just to forgive you and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8ff).

Then go and confidently follow Christ, telling others who love you of your proneness to certain wickedness, the sins that so easily beset you, and live confidently before God in His grace and love. Be encouraged to submit to one another in love, thanking God that others are watching over you and helping you to resist your sin, and to encourage you to endure righteously to the end!

ESV Hebrews 3:12-13:Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.


In Christ’s love,

Pastor Biggs