Jack Miller Reflecting on the Relationship of Justification and Sanctification in Union with Christ in the Context of Discipleship

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Dr. C. John (Jack) Miller[T]he theological leadership of the conservative church has done a poor job in establishing the necessary link between justification by faith and discipleship.

For example, an able teacher like [Dwight] Pentecost takes the following strange position: “We affirm again that it is possible for a man to be saved without being a disciple of Jesus Christ” (p. 29, Design For Discipleship).

Among the Reformed as well as the Arminian forgiveness and acceptance with God has somehow come across to men as the end of the road and not the beginning. Discipleship has been misconstrued far too often as a second-step addition to salvation, the option reserved for the elite and the ascetic.

Since no human power can overcome these obstacles, you need to have God put his weapons in your hands. The first weapon is the promises of God. You will find that the promises of God will do more for you…

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“On Weaknesses of Typical Seminary Graduates” — Thoughts by Jack Miller

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A good deal of the impetus for the [Leadership] training program came out of dissatisfaction with the seminary/Bible school model of training for service.

The strengths of a seminary/Bible school model are largely intellectual. These strengths include extensive exposure to Scripture, textual criticism, and Greek and Hebrew, sytematic theology, and church history.

The weaknesses are too many ideas and truths given too quickly and sometimes superficially, without a sharp focus on the unifying power of the gospel and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

The other critical weaknesses include a minimal interest in prayer and learning to work together as teams.

I do not mean at all to suggest that everyone who attends seminary is tainted with every weakness I shall mention.  I am only talking about what is common enough to be said to be virtually typical.

The typical seminary graduate has these serious problems and often does not know he has them:

1. In a formal sense he likely has his doctrines straight. But his thinking about biblical truths lacks sharp focus.  Why? Because of lack of understanding of the majesty, power, simplicity, and joy found in the gospel!  And because of a failure to apply to himself concretely to the uncompromising demands of God’s holy law and to be broken by the exposure of his radical self-centeredness!  Often the graduate is a man who sees himself as a repairer of the walls of the city of God but fails to see that his own walls are broken down.

2. He likely has a pretty hazy idea how his ideas apply to life and has not wrestled seriously with learning to communicate biblical truth with divine clarity, power, and concreteness.

3. He likely will see himself as a corrector of others without being awakened to the supreme importance of Jesus’ teaching in Luke 6 that we are to be correcting ourselves first. He may evidence more of the self-protectiveness that goes with pride than the openness that goes with the fruits and graces of the Holy Spirit.

4. He may not know how to control his own tongue or how to guide others in controlling theirs. He may have no idea whatsoever about working through conflicts in the church and how to engage in constructive conflict.  The idea of spiritual warfare conducted by fervent prayer may well be virtually unknown to him. Why should it not be?  Charles Hodge’s large three volumes on Systematics has a section of more than 300 pages on the means of grace, and of these 300 pages only 17 are devoted to prayer, and the quality of these 17 pages is not up to the fine quality of the rest of the volumes!  A spiritual disaster for training to have that kind of embalance in a valued text for theological training!

5. He will be typically inexperienced and un-humbled through his working only with students. He will easily assume that the church is mostly a classroom.  His ignorance of small group and congregational dynamics will be massive and he will likely have little idea how dangerous this is.  Only a few seminary graduates that I have known had any idea that there is such a thing as congregational dynamics.

5. The net effect is that he is likely to be self-protective rather than seeing his whole Christian life as one of a son who constantly engages in repentance, both tasting of its sorrows and its joys.

Against this background, at the beginnings of New Life Church we strongly emphasized the congregation as training ground in prayer, repentance, and witness.

Reflections by Jack Miller in “Training and Mobilization: A New Form of Education.”

 


Justification by Faith in the 20th Century: Nine Affirmations

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As I process research and writing for “Cheer Up! A Biographical Study of the Life and Ministry of C. John “Jack” Miller,” important documents (and audios) by Jack remain unpublished; documents that, in my estimation, are keenly insightful, prophetic, and could greatly bless and aid the church of Jesus Christ today.

Today, I’ve spent almost all day typing a 40 page essay by Jack Miller entitled “Justification by Faith in the 20th Century.”

This essay was written by Jack in December of 1978 at a turbulent time in our culture, in the church, and particularly at Westminster Theological Seminary, which was then immersed in a theological quagmire over justification by faith that had already lasted three years, continued until 1982, and arguably is alive and well (or not so well depending on your perspective) in the church today.

I’m not going to unload all 40 pages on you in this blogpost. With what I’ve gathered thus far in research and writing, I’m fairly convinced a study on Jack Miller and his treatment of “Justification by Faith in Union with Christ” is a research project/book that is waiting to happen.

For those of you who may be uninterested in an older theological debate, or presume you are a Christian because you walked the aisle of a church, were baptized, had a feeling, said some religious words of commitment, or have tried sincerely to be a good person and keep the commandments — this debate regarding justification by faith alone, which is as old as the Garden of Eden, is something, whether you realize it or not, you desperately need to hear about.

Trust me! For your well-being, joy and happiness now and eternally, you need to wrap your arms around, or better yet, by faith have Jesus Christ wrap His loving embrace around you with this glorious legal reality of justification by faith alone with respect to remission of sins and acceptance with God, and you will find it is bursting with relational relevancy.

And for those Christians who have left their justification by faith somewhere back there in the past, moved on to other salvation  benefits, and are grinding out this Christian life on your own with only a vague recollection of “Continuance in Justification,” and/or you have no idea what this heavenly declaration means to your life today, we do need to get together so we can talk about some of what Jack has been teaching me on this subject.

However, in this blogpost, I wanted to accomplish two things.

First, I want to wet your appetite by giving you just a taste of only some of what I’m finding from Jack Miller.

All that I’m finding couldn’t possibly make it into a biographical study without it being a 1000 pages. Nonetheless, it is essential that I at least draw attention to it in some introductory way.

This will help me and others gauge the future interest with respect to what further Jack Miller research and writing should follow next.

Second, because I’ve regularly heard what I know to be unfounded criticisms that Jack was “Lutheran-leaning” or more like “German Pietists,” basing this misguided assertion on the way he “over-emphasized justification” without awareness of the ongoing justification controversy at WTS, I thought it would be helpful for you and others to set before you what Jack himself has to say.

You won’t see much in this particular paper about sanctification (though other papers do address that topic) since the focus at the time was directed to justification. However, Jack will conclude this essay by talking about James 2 and Justification, as well as Justification and the Last Judgment.

You will notice, under “Affirmation 5, I’ve cut-and-pasted parts of what I’ve spent today typing from this unpublished working document Jack left for us to benefit from. Hope you enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed curating it from research.

Nine Affirmations by Jack Miller concerning Justification by Faith

Affirmation 1: I wish to affirm that it is my conviction that justification by faith has as a foundational presupposition a consciousness of the majesty of God and the absolute demands of His justice. (Page 3)

Affirmation 2: I wish to affirm that the cure of our disease lies in a personal encounter with God’s law and the conviction of sin which arises from that encounter (Romans 7:9-11). (Page 4)

Affirmation 3: I affirm my conviction that the Scriptures clearly teach that before the new birth and saving faith all men are in a state of condemnation. (Page 8)

Affirmation 4: I wish to affirm the fundamental distinction between a legal promise and a gospel promise. The contrast is developed with fine clarity in Calvin’s treatment of justification in The Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book III, Ch. XVIII. (Page 9)

Affirmation 5: This gospel promise 0f Justification is received by faith alone.

Content of Affirmation 5: 

In the Reformed tradition, this “alone” has been called “the exceptive particle.” This faith alone is synonymous with the expression “without works” or “apart from works.” It means that we are not trusting in a legal promise for our salvation [see Affirmation 4]. Such faith abandons the works of the law in order to trust in Christ alone for acceptance with God.

When we meet the expression “without works of the law” (Ro. 3:28) we should understand that Paul is further protecting the Christ alone (3:20-22). Here the language “without the works of the law” is attached to faith in order that faith will not be construed in some way as a new work blurring the ground of our justification, which can only be Christ.

So what is being said here in Romans 3:28 is that faith alone, or faith without works, is simply the equivalent of Christ alone. Faith in its receiving character is not attempting to fulfill [the legal promise of] Leviticus 18:4-5; instead it is abandoning all claim to self-justification and laying hold of that which lies outside of the man, even Christ and His merits.

For this reason I believe that it is a serious mistake to say that works may have a part in declarative justification. This may be done with all sincerity on the plausible basis that works may have a place in justification provided that they are not understood as meritorious or as the ground of our pardon and acceptance with God.

Editorial Note: Jack has inserted a handwritten page entitled “Insert on p. 13” and directed where it is to be inserted in the essay.

In summary, I wish to say that I can admire the pietist zeal to check the presumption of easy-believism by stressing the necessity for sincere faith in salvation. In the seventeenth and eighteenth century godly pietists did this by placing weight on the right kind of faith. So far so good. But the danger is that this right kind of faith (sincere faith) will mean at least that you as a sinner are expected to work to prepare before you come to Christ (see Norman Petit, The Heart Prepared).

But when you do that, I fear you may have moved in the wrong direction of justification by faith plus works. James Denny put the issue in these challenging words:

“The German pietists, in opposition to a dead orthodoxy, in which faith had come to mean no more than a formal recognition of sound doctrine, spoke with emphasis of penitent faith, living faith, true faith, obedient faith, and so on. It is somewhat against qualifications like these that they are foreign to the New Testament. What they come down to in practice is this: Before the mercy of God in Christ in propitiation can be available for you, O sinful man, you must have a sufficient depth of penitence, a sufficiently earnest desire for reconciliation and holiness, a sufficient moral sincerity; otherwise grace would only minister to sin. But such qualifications do infringe upon the graciousness of the gospel . . .” (The Death of Christ, pp. 290-91).

End Editorial Note.

For this reason the Westminster standards do not speak of faith in its justifying function as “obedient faith” or “working faith.” To be sure, faith which justifies is going to be faith which works and obeys. But in the justification of the ungodly that is not its function.

Rather, its unique office in declarative justification is to abandon all human righteousness and to receive and rest on Christ alone as justifier.

Calvin says it like this: “when you are engaged in discussing the question of justification, beware of allowing any mention to be made of love or works, but resolutely adhere to the exclusive particle.”

I see little reason to dispute over a term like “instrument” if a better one can be found. I personally prefer the word “means” or some more popular language like “the eye that looks to Christ” or “the empty hand that receives the gift of Christ.”

Yet whatever terminology is used, the main point must be upheld — which is that faith is the sole means by which we enter into union with Christ, the union which gives us our free justification as sinners. 

On the divine side, our regeneration brings us into union with Christ. But the human part in establishing this union is faith alone. 

There is nothing else. It is the sole doorway by which I enter into the house of salvation and receive Christ and all His glorious benefits, including justification. 

Therefore we may not say that faith and non-meritorious works both function as the means or instrument of justification. If we were to maintain this view, we would take away from the unique role that faith performs in our justification. That function is to receive Christ, something works can never do, no matter how you describe them.

Given these conclusions, all of us in the Reformed tradition ought to agree that teaching such a concept of faith and works (as instruments of justification) would constitute an offense against biblical doctrine.

As well, faith must always be seen as prior to justification in the order of the application or redemption. Temporally, faith and justification take place at the same time, but since faith functions as the unique means for bringing us into the state of justification it follows that faith has a priority. It is the priority of means.

There have been times when I have doubted the importance of this distinction. But I have seen that such a priority is inherent in the very idea of the open empty hand which takes hold of Christ, and faith is the way one lays hold of Him.

Therefore, I am persuaded that this is a matter of importance just because it protects the humble character of justifying faith. Our salvations begins not with our effort, but in our taking a free gift.

This is confirmed by Scripture. In Romans 3 and 4 and Galatians 2 and 3 the prepositions translated “through” in relationship to faith imply that faith comes first as a means of our justification.

We conclude then that God from all eternity decreed to justify His elect, and Christ died for their sins on the cross and rose again for their justification, but it is still true that they are not justified until they first have believed in Jesus Christ and His righteousness imputed to them.

There is no such thing as an eternal justification nor is there any such thing as an “active justification” which precedes this declarative once-for-all justification. Justification does not come to sinners until they have entered into applied union with Christ through faith in Him.

I say this strongly by way of loving challenge. If I am wrong on this point, then I would like to see the Scriptures which shows that there is an “eternal” or an “active” justification prior to justification by faith described in Romans 3 and 4.

Affirmation 6: I wish to affirm the vital power of saving faith. So far, I have been focusing on its unique role in God’s act of justifying the ungodly. In such a discussion, I refuse to give any place to talk of love, works or obedience. It does not belong here. In this context the work of faith is that of a hungry mouth. (Page 15)

Affirmation 7: I affirm that it is my belief that Galatians and related passages in the New Testament draw a sharp distinction between the Mosaic covenant and the new covenant. But I am of the opinion that in our time we are seeing the emergence of a new kind of “Reformed orthodoxy” which reads biblical history primarily in terms of “covenant continuity.” (Page 19)

Affirmation 8: I affirm my conviction that declarative justification as set forth in Romans 3 and 4 and Galatians 2 and 3 is a definitive act of God’s grace on behalf of the ungodly. (Page 24)

Affirmation 9: I affirm that declarative justification properly understood does not cancel out discipleship but makes it a reality. (Page 29)

Taken from “Justification by Faith in the Twentieth Century” (unpublished), The CJM Manuscript Collection, The PCA Historical Center, St. Louis, MO. (40 pages), December, 1978.


How is the Holy Spirit Unleashed?

How does the Spirit become unleashed on the practical level of human action?

[First,] the answer is that the Spirit works as we go with the message of the cross to human beings and as we pray before and during this undertaking.

In brief, we must resolve to go with the gospel daily and to keep going . . . [T]he first step is to go no matter how I feel. I go to people and as I go I preach the gospel to my own heart. What does this mean “preach the gospel to my own heart”?

This preaching takes place as I go with the message as a “sent one” (Romans 10:6-17). No matter how painful and arduous it may be at times, I must go. But the Spirit of the Lord tells me to hear the preached word of the Lord in my heart as I “go”  (Romans ]0:6-10, 17). As I witness let me look at the cross and meditate on the sheer awesome wonder of it.

Then, then, I know that my going is secondary; His going is primary.

What He has begun in the self-giving of His Son He now executes through the presence of His Spirit within me. In my speaking He is speaking.

My persuading of others is always marked by inadequacy, if not by sin and failure. But I now through the vision of the atonement of Christ have the beginnings of a humbled attitude, a brokenness over my continued unworthiness, and a new resting in the gospel which I bring to others. His atonement, the grace of His love, is changing me.

This is the unleashing of the Spirit.

The second step in learning to rely on the Spirit of grace is to pray for His presence. But what does this mean?

I am thinking of prayer of a certain kind, with a sharply defined biblical focus which leads me to face up to the depth of my self- reliance. In prayer I must face the mystery of the unbelief of my friends, relatives, fellow workers, and neighbors. And the mystery of my own unbelief which expresses itself in self- dependence and fear.

How does my sin of unbelieving fear express itself? Even in my prayers. Well, I pray, but as I try to pray I think of “their faces. ” Their faces — will they be angry? Supercilious?Indifferent? Cynical? Or open and welcoming? I am constantly weakened, if not crippled, by the thought: “What will they think of me?” Inwardly I fight battles that never need to be fought. My soul gets cast down by my own imaginings fueled by my own dark unbelief.

I do not mean there is no reason to fear rejection today. People at present despise a message which informs them that they are lost, or at least they are often profoundly indifferent to that which the Spirit reveals to us about the Father’s love. They can be so utterly heartbreakingly careless — outwardly — to the peril of their souls and God’s costly, crucified love.

But let me now pray for the Spirit to give me a vision of the peril of the lost and confess my fears. I pray desperately, feelingly, weakly, and then with growing awareness of the promise of the gospel found in John 3:16 and other great passages. And the Spirit then enters my heart in a new way.

This is a great paradox. I have the Spirit, I am already in-dwelt by Christ (Galatians 2:20). But I also need to have Him daily dwell in me by faith (Luke 11:1-13, Ephesians 3:16-17). He comes as I surrender my fears of rejection to Him. I confess the proud independence of spirit which lies behind these fears. Then I give my tendency to be ashamed of Jesus to God and ask Him to forgive it and take it out of my heart.

Then I directly and plainly ask the Father to give the gift of the Spirit to me. I who already have the Spirit claim the promise of the Spirit; I now wish to drink afresh from His vital life (Luke 11:13, John 7: 37-39) .

I also try to make my praying practical. I ask for the Spirit to give me comfort of soul and endurance. I think the key to effective evangelism is always the Spirit’s giving grace to be winsome and enduring, going on day after day in the work always with a smile and sometimes with tears.

About those tears. Here the mere talk ends and the walk begins. As I go with the message of the cross I must bear the personal cross He has appointed me. There is no other way. I must tell Him, with fear and trembling, that I am now willing to will His will. I am ready to be hurt for His glory. This ultimate surrender is very hard for me to do no matter how long I pray.

Jack Miller, Focus on What Matters Most in Evangelism, p. 8-9.


How Shall We Define Faith: The relation between Man’s Faith and the Holy Spirit

Now how will we define faith? I wouldn’t attempt to try at this point to give you a comprehensive definition of faith – in a practical way you could say that faith is to know Jesus Christ, to have trusted in Him, but maybe we ought to work it out in a few more divisions.

A Negative Definition of Faith:

Negatively, let’s say that faith is being silenced by the Person of God. That faith is to be silenced by God. 

You’ve gone to church and you’ve heard ministers begin the service “The Lord is in His holy temple and let all the earth keep silence before Him.” And everyone thinks, “That’s a very nice thought”, etc., and they never think about it again.

As a matter of fact, you are hearing a negative definition of faith; knowing that God is, and that everybody and every mouth be silenced before that God. “Be still and know that I am God” – there’s where faith begins, a humbling of the heart before the living God. (2)

And so, in a real sense, faith is to shut your big mouth about your own power, about your own righteousness, about your own self-efforts – it really is to recognize that before God you have nothing to boast of, that you stand there condemned. And so, that is the negative side of faith.

A Positive Definition of Faith:

On the positive side, faith is a surrender of trust to a God whom you are convinced loves you, and has mercy for you. No one is going to have this kind of faith unless he’s convinced that God is for him, that in some way God has promises which invite him to come to God. It’s a surrender, then, of trust – and the Westminster Confession of Faith speaks of this saving faith as accepting, receiving and resting on Christ alone for forgiveness, eternal life, adoption, sonship, etc.

And so what we would say, then, even as we talk about this positive side of faith, listen, being silenced – you don’t have anything to boast about when you do that, do you? And when you surrender, you don’t have anything to boast about either, do you? If you conquered something, you could boast about it – but faith, then, is an act of surrender. It becomes nothing in itself.

And now we speak of “saving faith”, but the faith itself doesn’t save you. It only gives you Christ Who does save you. And so we really must speak carefully – repentance and faith in themselves don’t save anybody. The only thing they do is to turn you about and give you Christ, and Christ saves you.

And many people who really labor to believe and strain themselves and struggle, go about it entirely the wrong way. They think of faith as some kind of attainment, of which afterwards you might have a reason for boasting. But that’s not the power of faith – that’s not what it is at all.

So if faith does nothing in itself, How Then Is Faith So Powerful?

And that brings us to the third thing, that faith has power in it; and in the Bible it’s virtually a synonym – used virtually as a synonym – for the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Why? Because the person who has faith has Jesus Christ. If you have faith – well let me back up a little bit and put it to you in another way.

In the Bible we’re told that with God all things are possible – we’ll all agree that the Bible teaches that, I think. Now did you ever think of how strange it is that we are told by Jesus that all things are possible to him that believes. Do you realiize how staggering that is?

You know, we get into the habit of just reading through the Bible and we’re accustomed to these things, and they have a certain rhythm to them, and we just read right on through them.

Do you realize, then, what a staggering thing it is to say of a man’s faith, that all things are possible to him that believeth. Now the only One of whom you can say that about – that all things are possible – is One whose name is Omnipotence, the Almighty God.

Now [we’re] a very superficial [people], whether we believe it or not, so if we don’t reflect on that – the most amazing thing here – that the person who believes comes into posession of that which is God’s.

And, of course, that’s why salvation is ours — through faith we’re united to Jesus Christ.

[A]nd everything He has becomes ours and all that we have becomes His. And that’s why we’re so rich; for you know the grace of the Lord Jesus, brethren, that though He was rich for your sakes He became poor that you through His poverty, might become rich.

And so, we can put it this way, if you owned Montgomery County [Pennsylvania] you’d be pretty wealthy; if you owned Pennsylvania you’d be even richer than the DuPont’s; but if you could say you owned God, the Lord is your portion, you’re the richest of all.

So to him that has faith, all things are his because he’s in Christ and Christ is in God.

Therefore, when you turn to the Bible, you find that the most astonishing things happen when people believe. . . . And so, what it is, in faith you surrender yourself and then
a mysterious thing happens, you discover you surrender yourself and you get everything. And if you don’t do this you can struggle forever and ever and ever and you try to get rich with your own little handfuls and it all melts away.

So there’s this tremendous power in faith and, as I said, it’s virtually a synonym for the Holy Spirit’s working. It’s simply the man-ward side of that divine working by which God draws sinners to Himself by His sovereign mercy.

Jack Miller, Faith Vs. Magic In The Modern World (unpublished), p. 2-4.


Creative Discipline in a Disorderly World

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Sometimes we just need a list! Here is helpful pragmatic list for us overwhelmed parents and confused kids — regardless of age — from the late Dr. Jack Miller.

The goal of discipline is to build character so he (the child) can have internal controls. This world is disorderly and has a lot of pain in it. If you decide you are going to avoid suffering and pain for yourself and for your children then you are going to have trouble. Life has conflict and struggle, and the goal . . .  is to help you with your children to live in this world with courage and authority.

TWO PRINCIPLES IN THE NURTURING OF CHILDREN

  1. Be a friend to your children; work on the love connection. Watch your words — especially words that imply rejection. We are are any at their behavior we tend to blow up or put on the deep freeze.
  2. Set and a few rules and stick by them:

a. everyone eat together

b. everyone works

c.  everyone shows courtesy

d.  don’t threaten

BEING A FRIEND

  1. Example from Proverbs 1, 2, 3, 4. The desire of the parent is to have the child’s hart. Work on being a friend to your child.
  2. Give him quality time where he knows you have his undivided attention. Learn to listen.
  3. Learn to ask questions on the basis of the listening. Give him space to expressing himself without judging him.
  4. Accept them as they are, build the foundation of the law and gospel for them.
  5. Interpret yourself to your children. Explain to them how you think. Be understandable.
  6. Work with the child’s sense of right and wrong.

DISCIPLINE STEPS

  1. Instruct the child, so the child knows the guidelines and boundaries. Too many rules are confusing, but must have boundaries.
  2. Admonish the child when he has disobeyed.
  3. Express astonishment at this attitude or misbehavior. You are here taking seriously his sin, and your astonishment works on his conscience.
  4. Physical discipline — spanking, in the corner, depriving of something he likes.
  5. Final and most serious phase is banishment from his presence. This will not be very effective if you haven’t build a friendship.
  6. Should always be carried out in the framework of forgiveness. Discipline is not over until stiffness is gone in the child.
  7. Be careful you don’t project from your body language that you have not forgiven.

Parents today have a lot of fears about discipline, because they don’t know what the heart of it is. There is so much written and so much knowledge that it can be overwhelming.

It isn’t complication. You love your child and you ask him to love you in return.

Our tendency is to discipline them when they annoy us. As early as you can work on establishing this bond of friendship. The child should pick up at an early age that what delights you is to have them please you. Interpret to them that you are trying to please God.

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOUR CHILDREN DO NOT RESPOND

  1. Keep your own spirit free from bitterness.
  2. Keep seeing reconciliation with the child.
  3. Keep on with discipline.
  4. Check the child for hunger, illness and tiredness.
  5. Watch out for bitterness in the child.
  6. Pursue honesty — let the child know what you think of their behavior.

BELIEVE THE GOSPEL

  1. God is for you and your children.
  2. He is building the house.
  3. The promise is for you and for your children. The promise is that He will be a God to
  4. you and to your seed after you.
  5. Lead them always to Christ, as you yourself go to Christ.
  6. It works by prayer. You are not alone.

GOSPEL ORIENTED HOME

  1. Faith in God’s promises to feed and clothe my family
  2. Faith in God’s promise to save my children as the gospel is presented to them.
  3. Free to accept the child the way he is and faith to believe the Spirit will bring the changes needed.
  4. Remember that discipline through important and necessary does not take away sins, but is God’s way of dealing with the conscience
  5. Free to give praise, appreciation and approval
  6. Free to ask for forgiveness and free to give it
  7. Willing to accept failure
  8. Trusting in the Holy Spirit to work on root problems
  9. Knowing that grace enables me to teach my children
  10. Suffering and discipline are God’s means of grace for shaping the child’s conscience and character

A FEW ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS (added by one of Jack’s daughters)

  1. Friendship means: I am on your side, I am for you. I’m going to explain and interpret myself, my actions, and what I know of God and obedience to you.
  2. Friendship does not mean that I do things your way, but we do things God’s way. God’s way is to teach the children His Word, and especially to honor their parents.
  3. My children are my sheep, and I am to feed them, nurture them. This means I must get the Word of God digestible for them to understand.
  4. Nurturing is a two-way trace . . . Friendship and authority.
  5. If you do not consistently discipline then you won’t feel like working on the friendship.Children need your support and they also need to be held accountable.
  6. If you haven’t been nurturing and disciplining your children, . . . then you can apologize to them, asking for forgiveness, and explaining that you are now going to be different.

LIVING UNDER LAW

  1. My actions or things I do will make people like me
  2. This brings a preoccupation with self
  3. Fosters an independent spirit
  4. Will always be critical and judgmental
  5. Expectations high of performance — of self and others
  6. Fears and anxieties control the life
  7. Needs strength in ourselves to complete the task
  8. Doesn’t know how to love
  9. Doesn’t know how to forgive
  10. Doesn’t know how to bring others to Christ because he doesn’t know how to bring himself to Christ.
  11. Has lost confidence in Christ’s ability to bridge the gap between God’s demands and man’s sinfulness.
  12. Sees his worth by what he is doing

LIVING UNDER GRACE

  1. Believers there is no goodness in him to perform a single act of obedience without the power of the Spirit.
  2. Believes his sins are forgiven and can then forgive others.
  3. Accepts his position as a son without condemnation.
  4. Knows the power of the flesh if given into will bring internal connect and conflict with others.
  5. Believes he now has the Spirit’s power to love his neighbor.
  6. Understands there is a warfare with the flesh, the world and the devil, but they are not greater than Christ.
  7. Believes his life is under God’s sovereign control and that His will is good, acceptable and perfect.
  8. Is learning to go to his Heavenly Father in prayer to settle his problems and to have his needs met.

Taken from Jack Miller, “Creative Discipline in a Disorderly World” (unpublished), August 1985, p. 1-3, and 14.


The Sacredness of Conscience: God’s Watch-Dog of the Soul

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In a lecture on “Approach to Young People thru Justice,” using Romans 1-2, Jack Miller had wonderfully described to his students the sacredness of the human conscience as “God’s watch-dog of the soul” (citing Samuel Rutherford).

Though after the Fall, our twisted consciences would now twist justice — blaming others and God for being unjust while covering and excusing our own injustices — nonetheless, this sacred conscience in man should still be taken seriously and respected in order to maintain liberty. Strategies and methods of manipulation or forcing a person’s conscience should be avoided.

God judges; the law judges. We on the other hand, with our twisted consciences, are poor judges at best.

During a time of question and answer, several interesting questions from the students to what Jack had said surfaced, one of which I’d like to share in this blogpost.

Student’s Question taken from Lecture Transcript:

“If a person makes a confession of Christ and he doesn’t feel saved and you [not Jack, but rhetorically and typically] tell him just believe and the feeling comes later . . .

In listening to you [Jack, talk about respecting the sacredness and liberty of the conscience including feelings], if I am hearing you correctly, one could say [instead of saying “just believe and the feelings will come later” you could also say], “Well, what if you held [something] back,” or “Are you withholding something?” [to account for the “I don’t feel saved.”]

The student’s implied question was this:

“May a person, though making a profession of faith in Christ, since they do not “feel saved,” actually be unsaved, even though they professed faith? Or should we just say what typically has been said, “Just believe and the feelings will follow”?

I commend to you all Jack’s answer for your reflection and consideration.

Here is how Jack answered that student, and his class that night.

“That would be possible, yes. It’s hard to know what is inside of people. You have to have a lot of humility because you can’t look into their hearts. But this has happened to me so many times that my convert turned out not to be converted. I’ve become cautious on this point.

I think the normal . . . for the new life seems to have some abundance.

Now when I could have abundance, I may look through my life and can’t find a thing, you see? You know, my wife can’t . . . You think I’m kidding — but she can’t — and so we can be pretty blind to something that’s wrong with us.

And so it is with the Holy Spirit — much better than your wife or your husband; He’s able to show you what’s wrong.

And most of our sins are pretty obvious to us — it doesn’t take a great genius to figure out that we have pride and unbelief, lust and selfishness.

[For example], If you want people to be free, you’ve got to figure out how are they getting along with their parents?

You know, when you do marriage counseling, one of the things you ask them is what do they think of the other person’s parents, and vice versa, and what do you think of your own parents . . .

You’ll tend to repeat in the marriage relationship whatever you were doing before, so I usually say it doesn’t make all that much difference whether I [Jack Miller] can tell whether you’re saved or not, or even whether you can [tell].

Its important now to get a right relationship with Jesus. And Jesus offers to give that to you. That is the whole point of Jesus standing at the door and knocking . . .

(Here Jack will go on to give many Scripture verses from OT and NT in support of his point) . . .

Jack continues,”You see, the Reformed are so busy refuting the Arminians as to what the passage [Revelation 3:20] meant that we’ve forgotten all about it until we get up and preach our sermons, you know, and show (I suspect I’ve done this myself) the Arminians they didn’t really understand this passage.

[But] we never positively said what it means. What does it mean?

Well it means that there is in the Lord Jesus a wonderful willingness to enter into the present sinners’ lives. He is extremely eager to get inside. That is the whole point there of that tenderness.

He comes on with such sharpness in Revelation 3 — just hitting hard, and then, what do you know, He just goes ahead and says “I’m eager to eat with you.”

And there’s your old conscience “You know I don’t want Him that close.” And yet He wants to come in. . . .

[So] if a [person] doesn’t know whether [they’re] a believer then let them believe and draw near to God and God says, “I will make you My child.”

So you needn’t sit around and worry and worry — is God for me or against me? God is not a liar.

Back in the days when I had more income I used to take my children to dinner upon occasion, and when I took them to dinner I announced that they could have anything on the menu they wanted.

They were always willing to go for the best. They never had a problem. I didn’t say it all the time — just in expansive moods, or occasions, or birthdays or that sort of thing.

Now I found this, if I took a stranger out, back in those more palmier days, and I said to him, “You may choose anything on the menu,” and he looked there, often he wouldn’t believe me. You know, he didn’t want to embarrass me by spending more than my pocket could afford.

It’s the same way with the children of God and the promises of God. God comes and says “The whole menu’s for you.”

See? If you’re a stranger you’re afraid you’re going to embarrass Him because He won’t be able to supply it.

To someone [who is a beloved child] in whom the Spirit is working he receives these things by faith – well he knows that these things are for him and so he receives them.

[Today], don’t be an alien; don’t be worried that much about your sins.

You’re to go to God on the basis of the promises and, that way, you can sort out all the sins you can think of as you come.

And if there’s anything else in you that yet remains, He promises that He will show that to you too.

You may not even want to have Him do it but He promises that He’ll take care of that too.

Taken from lecture transcript (unpublished) entitled “Approach to Young People thru Justice,” p. 10-12, No Date.

Personal Note for Further Explanation: 

Blogposts, articles and classroom lectures have their limits. It is part of the nature of language (e.g., you can’t always say everything all the time, say things on top of one another, or continuously qualify yourself attempting to satisfy dissatisfied critics).

As I continue assimilating research for a Biography of Jack Miller, I am struck more and more by Jack’s positive and constructive approach to sharing the gospel effectively in a way that clearly communicates these glorious doctrines of grace that are so central to the Reformed faith.

Just for one example, running throughout Jack’s life and ministry is what he calls “The faith-building character of the gospel.”

That pregnant statement — The faith building character of the gospel — is worth further research on its own merit.

The more I’ve heard, read and continue to think about this statement so core to Jack’s life and ministry practice, the more I smile and sometimes just laugh a bit; at the beauty and simplicity of the way Jack disarmingly says such profound things.

Perhaps if I said it another way, it will be more familiar and even controversial, though it needn’t be.

When Jack refers to the “faith building character of the gospel,” he is saying simply that human faith (and repentance) follows the work of the Spirit in the Gospel.

Let me reverse that and it will probably be more familiar to those more theologically inclined: the Spirit sovereignly regenerates and creates in us faith and repentance.

Jack’s many years of involvement in evangelism and prayer, his faith in a living partnership with the Spirit, his penchant with words deepened from a background in literature, his missionary work, etc. — all were used by God to deepen Jack’s ability to effectively communicate the gospel message in constructive and positive ways.

Jack’s love for Christ and Christ’s mission took the knowing “how” and “that” the gospel is a faith-building message, to actually preaching that gospel, trusting in its faith building character to bear fruit in his life and the lives of others.

Philosophical arguments that would typically follow a statement like “the faith building character of the gospel” — if one took time to think about what Jack is saying — go almost unnoticed by others from non-Reformed or non-Christian backgrounds, who may otherwise stiff-arm the gospel coming near by parroting the time-worn arguments between predestination and free-will.

Even in our Reformed tradition we can read and look over what Jack is saying preferring theological arguments to actual doing evangelism. We have a tendency to hide behind the language of “giftedness” (e.g., Jack has the gift of evangelism) to excuse ourselves from learning how to share the gospel message effectively as foundational to any discipleship.

The remarkable empirical results from Jack entrusting himself to prayer and proclaiming God’s Gospel to Christians and non-Christians around the world are undeniable.

The Spirit of Christ was faithful to regularly light a fire in the basement of countless lives causing them to throw open the doors of their hearts to Christ who they then found had already been there knocking — even while avoiding devolving into that typical abstract philosophical argument about predestination and free-will, though Jack’s entire approach rested upon “the faith building character of the gospel.”

Rather than complaining about the dearth of theological and biblical knowledge in the church (e.g., often making those of us taking doctrine seriously feel superior), Jack sees a great opportunity if we Reformed Christians can learn to communicate the gospel message effectively.

It is not magic! Jack didn’t consider himself an expert in evangelism, prayer or Sonship. And since his approach to the gospel depended upon grace, all the glory belonged to Christ, and Jack simply trusted Christ for the results.

His responsibility was simply: 

a) learn himself to pray together and communicate the gospel message effectively, 

b) train other Christians to pray and communicate the gospel effectively,

c) in faith, go with them and communicate this gospel they’d been preaching to one another.

You may recognize the now familiar cliche “Preach the gospel to yourself,” parroted by many today with Jack’s understanding of “the faith building character of the gospel.” For Jack, “the gospel is not only a message, it is also a promise.”

The language of “Preach the gospel to yourself,” likely was coined in Sonship parlance by Paul, Jack’s son. However, understanding its practical origins, “Preach the gospel to yourself” was never intended to be limited to a personal mantra.

We glory-craving individualistic Americans can make anything into a “me-ism.”

Rather, before it became a cliche originally “Preach the gospel to yourself,” was actually a practice born out of the Reformed tradition of claiming the promises in prayer.

As you know, in English, “you” can be plural or singular. When you are teaching a group or church, especially pastors and leaders, “Preach the gospel to yourself,” can mean individually, but when you supply a corporate noun, means: “Church, preach the gospel to yourself,” or, if I may take a bit of Liberty with the English, “Pastors, make sure members of your church preach the gospel to one another.”

During a Sonship Week, or on the recordings, Jack will describe what happened when asking preachers, their wives, and leaders to preach the gospel to one another. 

The group looked around at each other most uncomfortably without knowing what to do or say, wondering “Does Jack think I’m not a Christian?”
I’ve heard of at least one significant leader who got up and said indignantly, “Why do you want us to do that? We are already Christians.”
Until recently, my only paradigm for Jack doing this was negative: that is, Jack was sort of shaming his listeners so they could repent for being unable to do something so basic as preach the gospel to yourself. The embarrassed leaders would promise themselves to never be caught that way again, (e.g., go home and learn a two-minute elevator presentation of the gospel), and then, returning to their congregations, they could say “Preach the gospel to yourself,” as a sort of new tactic, and watch them feel uncomfortable and guilty too.
While that one possible way of looking at it, the more I immerse myself in Jack’s approach, rather than shaming people (though he could be very bold privately) he is far more positive and constructive.

As I read Jack describing “the faith-building character of the gospel,” his emphasis on claiming the promises in corporate prayer, and the purpose behind creating the “New Life Booklet,” a more positive and constructive explanation consistent with Jack’s approach emerged.

Rather than shaming, Jack really wanted us church leaders to go back and train our people as a church so that every member could effectively communicate the gospel to one another, and to others in the community around them.

This is exactly what happened at New Life Church far before the phrase “preach the gospel to yourself” was colonized in evangelical speak.
In the context of a hospitable Small Groups devoted to praying together, the New Life Booklet was created and used as the discipling material. Let me say that again: the New Life Booklet, a booklet created for evangelism, was used as the discipleship material.

As I understand, small groups gathered, prayed for half the time, and, without shaming, practiced “preaching the gospel yourself” in this group setting.

This is what Jack wanted pastors to get into their local church to corporately “preach the gospel to yourself” so that:

(a) every member can become more and more comfortable with effectively communicating that gospel message clearly and simply, and
(b) to get the church under that “faith-build character of this powerful Gospel of God”; a message through which the life-giving Spirit of Christ loves to work,

c) all with the result that as praying Christians now existentially emboldened in Christ confidence rather than self-confidence, would then prayerfully, expectantly, and humbly preach the same grace they’d received to others.

For Jack, this faith building character of the gospel in partnership with the Spirit accessed through praying and preaching the gospel to one another, would have massive implications for the trajectory and fruitfulness of his life and ministry.

Whereas we tend to separate or, at best, overlap evangelism and discipleship, Jack would see an inseparable and foundational relationship between evangelism, prayer and disciple-making, out of which the widely known Sonship course would find its original purpose in a larger context of missions and evangelism.

To Jack, a separation of evangelism and discipleship; missions from renewal would have been unheard of. In fact, “the heart of disciple-making” for Jack was “the effective communication of the gospel message.”

Consequently, the earliest Sonship training would begin with twelves weeks of extensive training in evangelism and prayer (especially corporate prayer), and weekly evangelistic calls. This training, which included separate times of counseling/mentoring, was followed the “Teams” and “Sonship” track, in which evangelism and prayer would still remain an inseparable foundational feature.

Unfortunately, this order would make what appears to be a subtle unnoticeable change in the early 90’s in a later version of the Leadership Training, and the Sonship track would come to the fore as the overarching theme, eclipsing somewhat the emphasis on evangelism, making way for a bifurcation between evangelism and discipleship; missions and renewal. (This last assertion is more theoretical at this stage needing further research before warranting a more conclusive assertion, with attending conclusions). 

In any case, to Jack, in light of the “faith building character of the gospel,” you couldn’t call yourself a disciple, disciple-maker, or perhaps even a follower of Christ if you were not sharing the gospel message in a disciple-making way with others and leading them to become disciple-makers themselves.

But I’ll save more on that for another day! Maybe it will wet your appetite for this research to be concluded and the dissertation written.

Hopefully, in this explanatory note, I’ve said enough and said it in a cryptic enough way that my more Arminian friends who have jettisoned theology (e.g., usually for relationship) will remain somewhat unsuspecting of what Jack is really doing when he speaks of “the faith building character of the gospel.”

I can hear Jack laughing with that Jack Miller laugh, were he to be asked: “Which comes first, God choosing us, or our choosing Him?”

Instead of arguing over causations, choices, and door-openings, like most of us would — Jack kept preaching the gospel — to Christian and non-Christian alike, trusting the power of this gospel and that “Divine Spy in the basement” to empower God’s gospel to save all who believe, including first creating in them that original faith to believe.

Jack wouldn’t spend a bunch time trying to save Arminian’s from their misguided enlightened emphasis on their right to choose (e.g., though he did talk about this as one of the primary problems in our culture today within a teaching context) or free-will.  

As they began wondering “Now that I’m saved, what do I do,” Jack kept on preaching the gospel to them as Christians, encouraging them through prayer to keep on receiving from Christ, that unquenchable stream of living water, and this gospel message with others.

As as they (and we) wondered why Jack kept preaching the gospel to them as Christians since they were already saved, Jack continued trusting their growth in this grace that came  from outside of them to the One who had started this “faith” work in them to begin with.

At the same time, honestly, I am poking the pig a little; that is poking at those in my own Reformed tradition who would rather enjoy being skeptical and suspicious; Reformed clinicians often entrenched in our theological labs desperately defending an embattled Reformed faith against errors of Enlightment Arminianism, Fundamentalism, Romanticism, Liberalism and Humanism.

While there is an important place to “defend the faith,” I do not want you to miss the party! Open the damn door!

Open the door and enjoy the One who is there knocking: the tenderness, beauty and abundance of this Holy, Sovereign, Majestic, Ascended, Glorified King and Savior Jesus Christ.

He delights in sending His Spirit to interrupt our important studies and activities, to bring us down from our white towers of doctrinal precision, and to eat a banquet feast with us, a table of grace upon grace He Himself has supplied and prepared.

Being right is one my favorite past-times.

Sadly, I can remember a time not too long ago (at least not long enough), fighting over Revelation 3:20 with the co-leader of the Evangelism Explosion Training program at First Baptist.

In front of our other trainers and trainees (which I’m fairly certain numbered above 25) –after we had prayed, preached the gospel to one another, and saw several people come to Christ for the first time, and were filled to overflowing with all the fullness of God — this co-leader and I got into a public dispute over the the question of who really opens the door of our hearts: what comes first, God’s choosing us or our choosing God?

I am deeply ashamed of the damage that I caused to the consciences of so many Christians that night; some of whom did not return. 

These people had  given a night of their busy week in order to to learn to communicate the gospel effectively, only to have their joy in Christ undermined by us leaders engaging in this ungodly shameful exchange.

Instead of leaving with that normal heavenly sense of abundance and the fullness of joy, we all left the church that night defeated and discouraged.

We had done Satan’s work for him. 

Rather than learning to communicate the gospel effectively, we, the leaders, made the gospel message seem inaccessible, and any prospect of communicating it effectively almost unattainable; even while sounding like we were theological experts, though, truthfully, I really didn’t know who or what hell I was talking about.
Please don’t do what I did!

That is not the gospel!

If you have read thus far, here is some great Barney Fife theology: “Stop it! Just stop it right now! Nip it in the bud.”

For a long time, I remained unrepentant over this; even angry at Jesus.

My need to be right, masked by a deeper arrogance and insecurity, which was magnified by  a naturally dominating, intense personality combined with my unwillingness to listen and learn (Why would you when your clearly right).

Together, it was a blinding religious totality so impregnable and stubborn, I was reachable only by the Spirit of Christ through the power of the gospel.

Even Jesus was unfit to come in and eat with me until he corrected and cleaned up his theology with respect to free-will and predestination.

At the very least, I thought He should revise and/or clarify Revelation 3:20 with some statements so Arminians wouldn’t continue to evangelizing their error. 

And at the time, though hidden to me then, instead of respecting the conscience, my rightness compelled me in the name of truth to lord over their consciences, dominating them with the force of my intensity and charisma to submit to the reality that I was obviously right — and the Bible agreed with me — and my view of the Ordo-Salutis, predestination and free-will.

Now hopefully can you see a little better the importance of taking seriously and respecting the liberty of a person’s conscience?

Thankfully Jesus can work through asses like me!

And thankfully Jesus is still sending the Spirit to spy-out the depths of my own heart!

And I’m still preaching the gospel to myself, and whoever else I can; only now, in light of what Jack is teaching me about “the faith building character of the gospel,” more free to listen and learn to communicate His good news more effectively — to Christian and non-Christian — while leaving the results of this great work of salvation God started in the first place to Him to complete.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17).