on Sword and Trowel part two

I have mostly finished my first look at the modern Sword and Trowel. If this issue is typical, the magazine is worth receiving. The second article by Peter Masters is also excellent. Entitled ‘Paul’s Positive Plan for Holiness’, Masters outlines from Rm 7-8 eight essential steps for pursuing personal holiness. Masters critiqued John Piper’s theories elsewhere for his denial of personal effort in sanctification. I agree with Masters on this point. Piper is guilty of a neo-Keswickian view of sanctification which distorts the Christian life.

Here is a summary of Masters’ eight points:

  • Recognize the Problem – I still have a sin nature, defeated by the cross, but still alive and a powerful force in my soul, if I allow it.

“A serious determination to struggle against sin is the only way to live as a Christian, yet it is a stance that modern evangelicalism, saturated in worldliness and show-business informality and entertainment, does not want to take.”

  • Have Positive Aims – have a goal of godliness, an objective to strive after, a ‘good I would’ do, much as an athlete sets objectives for his physical progress, so too we must set objectives for spiritual progress.
  • Plan to Avoid Sin – the antithesis of point two: have an objective NOT to sin, an evil ‘I would not’.

“Sin will not be broken and overcome without a longing to avoid it, and the preparation of a prior battle-plan of intentions.”

  • Keep Up Self-Examination – constantly put yourself under scrutiny from the objective perspective of God’s word. Be ready and quick to confess sin that is exposed.
  • Long for Overall Improvement – longing for improvement stretches out towards the goal, presses on to victory as in Phil 3.13-14. This is a daily dedication to holiness.
  • Seek Spiritual Help – by this Masters means the help that is readily available from God, even as the Lord taught us to pray ‘Lead us not into temptation’.

“Daily we pray for a lively conscience and a fresh realization that we are observed by the Lord. Strong and besetting sins always yeld following earnest prayer, because the Spirit gives power to resist them, often along with a sense of revulsion against sin.”

  • Mind Heavenly Things – actively direct your thoughts to spiritual things, mind the things of the Spirit, set your affections on things above. Masters points out that we are often too much minded with earthly things. Like sports, for example.

“Whatever engages the believer most will shape that person’s heart and outlook, in line with the words of Christ, ‘For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also’ (Matthew 6.21).”

  • Mortify Sin

“Mortification means putting to death these aspirations, and quenching sinful moods, tempers, words and acts. … Not one of these steps may be overlooked, but this eighth is probably the decisive one. Grasping the help of God, by prayer, we put the sin to death and redirect the thoughts to something higher and better.”


I hope you find this helpful. The whole article is well worth your reading if you can find a copy. Subscription info can be found here.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3