Gospel Thought – 1. Know your Friend, 2. Know your enemy, 3. Know your weaknesses

Recently I have been reading Jack Miller’s book “The Heart of a Servant Leader.”  On page 59 we read a letter that Jack wrote to a young pastor who encountered resistance to his teaching on how the grace of Christ is designed to change hearts.  Jack writes…

“One irony that strikes me is that so often people who emphasize the third use of the law (reminding believers of the mark at which we are to aim, namely Christ – Tim’s ad) are really not great law keepers themselves.  For example, I have noted that sometimes church members given heavy doses of the third use of the law have little idea of the inner nature of the law as a delighting in God.  I have also noted a tendency to exclude the tongue and a a critical spirit from consideration as well, so that you can get the irony of believers defending the law with a harshness that itself breaks the law!  What sinners we can be!But I do think that the Heidelberg Catechism (see question 32 – Tim’s ad) and the Belgic Confession have an excellent emphasis on faith and sanctification.  It is also interesting to see that (as best I can recall) the Larger Catechism speaks of the third use of the law and relates its role to breaking us and driving us to Christ.  Add that emphasis, and grace follows.  For what it is worth, here is how I see the theological emphasis of English Puritanism 1.  Know your enemy – the word, the flesh, the devil; 2 – Know your personal limitations – your own particular fleshly characteristics and habits; 3 – Know your Friend – the grace of God in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Personally I cannot deny that sometimes churches need that order and such an emphasis has led to revival.  Still, I find myself overwhelmed when I pick up a 320-page book by John Owen and find 308 pages devoted to points 1 and 2, and only 12 pages given to point 3, grace and the gospel.  Owen, of course, doesn’t always do this, but it seems pretty typical.  My own heart likes this order better:  1.  Know your Friend; 2. Know your enemy; 3. Know your weaknesses.  And I would keep the controlling theme of point 1 even when talking about points 2 and 3.   At the same time I do not think that an emphasis on grace leads to a soft ministry on sin and the severe demands of the law.  Actually, it seems to me that such grace teaching makes it possible for sinners like us to hear the hardest things said about our sin patterns, and that can lead into a healthy sorrow which then leads back to sanity, i.e., repentance.”

As you consider Jack Miller’s words, I would suggest that you reflect on Romans 2:1-4:

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? – NIV

It is the kindness of Christ that leads us to repentance.  As you consider these truths, may the controlling influence of the Gospel of Jesus be central in your life today…this week…and continue even unto heaven – Know Your Friend, Jesus!  He is your blessing.

3 thoughts on “Gospel Thought – 1. Know your Friend, 2. Know your enemy, 3. Know your weaknesses

  1. “For example, I have noted that sometimes church members given heavy doses of the third use of the law have little idea of the inner nature of the law as a delighting in God.”

    Is it possible that those who don’t already hate sin, feel repentance over sin, and don’t love the law of God are indeed not aware of their lost-ness? In other words, are they not then by the measure of scripture unregenerate? Christ is my blessing, but the blessing of propitiation seems best understood as we peel back the onion on the vile nature of sin.

    That said, the grace of Christ cannot be overstated. Indeed as we grow in the Christian life (referring to the law in a third sense) and understand the depravity of sin which we once viewed as ‘acceptable’, we must more confidently believe that God’s grace is sufficient all the more, or else lose hope. Thanks for the post!


    • I think it may have been Martin Luther who said, “For every one look we take at our sin, we need to take ten looks at the cross!” This gives us the freedom to look at our sin, internal and external, without condemnation and, as you say, “confidently believe that God’s grace is sufficient all the more.”


      • Agreed. Thanks for your writings and work here. I just found the site and it’s very helpful and interesting.


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