WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Sanctification -– among Christians in general and ministers in particular -– was a key theme of the two-day Theology-Driven Ministry Conference at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Paul David Tripp, president of Paul Tripp Ministries and a counselor for 25 years, presented three messages on relationships and sanctification while Sinclair Ferguson, a Scottish theologian educated at the University of Aberdeen and senior minister at First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, S.C., delivered three lectures on the pastor’s role in sanctification.
Tripp’s first session focused on the fact that a Christian’s walk with God is a community project, whereas Christians too often bring a mindset of individualism — especially in Western culture — into the church.
Tripp, an adjunct professor at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation and Westminster Seminary, said the Christian walk is a community effort “because we are to live in the shadow of and image of God who not only does community, He is community.”
In the second session, Tripp discussed progressive sanctification and the anti-social nature of sin, noting that, “Sin is not first the breaking of rules; sin is first the breaking of relationship.”
Highlighting the danger of living for oneself, Tripp pointed to the Book of Ephesians, which he said describes an attitude of desire without an internal restraint system, something that is echoed in Philippians.
In his final session during the conference, Tripp discussed sanctification in the midst of the messiness of relationships and gave listeners a reality check.
“You will never understand your relationships or progressive sanctification unless you have biblical clarity as to where you live. You live in a world that is not as it is supposed to be. You live in a broken world,” Tripp said.
He explained that believers “live somewhere between the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet,’ … somewhere between grace and shalom”: Christ’s saving work on the cross was completed, but until His final return, the earth and humans remain in a fallen state. The complexity of relationships, he continued, involves the fallen world mess, the sin mess and the devil mess. Not only are people flawed, but Satan is out to destroy the community that God desires for His people.
Closing with a word of hope, Tripp said, “God hasn’t forgotten you. God hasn’t gotten the plan messed up. There is sovereign appointment to this. Why? The agenda is redemption,” he said. “This mess is designed by God to be a very effective workroom of grace. God will take you where you did not want to go in order to produce in you what you could not achieve on your own.”
Tripp also spoke to Southeastern students during chapel March 28. From his text in Romans 7, he described sin as a law, a war and a prison. He also said all humans are in need of rescue. People too often focus on the box of salvation rather than the gift of Jesus Christ, he said, like a child more interested in the wrapping their new toy came in than the toy itself.
Ferguson, warned pastors that the most important thing on their minds should be their own godliness, spoke about the pastor’s role in his own sanctification, the pastor’s basic understanding of sanctification and the pastor’s understanding of the pressures God uses to produce sanctification in His children.
“My friend, are you anything like the Lord Jesus?” Ferguson asked.
He concluded his first session with an exhortation to the pastors at the conference: “The single most important thing for the minister of the Gospel is that the minister of the Gospel be more and more shaped and fashioned in the likeness of Jesus Christ. Otherwise, the Christ the people come to believe in is not the Christ of the Scripture.
“Either become more like Christ or get out of the Gospel ministry because, if you don’t do the former, you will do great damage to the latter,” Ferguson said.
Throughout his messages, Ferguson gave strong warnings but always included hope and encouragement from the Bible.
In his final message concerning the pressures of sanctification, he reminded students that James urged his readers to count it all joy during a time of trials.
“God is never afraid to test His workmanship,” Ferguson said, noting that a believer is molded by the trials he or she endures. “What a privilege it is to be tested by the Holy Spirit,” he said.
The plenary sessions are available for downloading at www.sebts.edu/chapel.