The Parable of the Sailboat
Galatians 3:21-24 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. 22 But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.
I was recently at a conference where Dr. Michael Horton was amongst the speakers. During a question and answer session he was asked to talk about justification and sanctification. In the course of his answer he gave an illustration of a sailboat that I thought was very illuminating. I share it with you here.. - Rev. John Samson
Sanctification is something that flows out of justification.... the justifying verdict that God announces in the gospel has its revurberations right into every nook and cranny of our lives transforming us from top to bottom and inside out.
Imagine you have a sailboat which has all the "bells and whistles" on it.. (a radio, fish finders, satellite, the most advanced mapping system imaginable.. so that it can literally steer you to your destination). You head out of the harbor under full sail.
After some time you find yourself in the middle of the ocean and there is a dead calm (there is no wind). Your radio tells you that there is a large storm coming.. it could be a very dangerous situation and you are now in trouble because right where you are, there is no wind at all and you are "dead in the water".. you do not have an engine, you depend on the wind.. so you start paddling..
You are thrilled to have all the necessary technology to navigate your course, but all this technology can only tell you the depths of the trouble you are now in. What you need is the wind and the sail to get you back to the harbor.
A lot of Christians speed out of the harbor under full sail and get lost out there in the middle of the sea.. they love the technology and want to hear of a new place to go, something to do.. because they are genuinely filled with gratitiude for what God has done for them, but then eventually, the directions become another yoke of bondage if they do not get the wind (of the Gospel) in their sails.
What we assume is that we need the wind of the Gospel to get us out of the harbor; now people need the right equipment. But what we need to say is "no... they need the wind and the equipment, ALL the time.. we need them for different things. The law cannot do anything more in sanctification than it did in justification, but my relationship to the law is different than it was before... so that now, I am happy with the instruments and technology, because I WANT to follow where these instruments are directing me but ONLY the gospel can fill my sails and get me there...
So we do not live a law driven life, we live a GOSPEL driven life and a law directed life. The law directs but it cannot save. It tells you where to go but it cannot get you there. That is why we need to have the Gospel preached regularly.. sermons that end with "how are you doing with all this?" do not put wind in your sails. That's because on a good day, whatever the specifics of the question are, my answer is "honestly, what you are saying does not describe me, but it does describe Christ and His perfect righteousness, and He is not only given for me but indwells me by His Spirit."
Sanctification is living out the effects of our union with Christ....
Whenever we say "we need more practical preaching" we are saying "we need more law" - now maybe we do need more law... more guidance as to what indeed is the will of God for our lives, but just know what you are saying when you say you need more practical preaching. "Practical" means direction.. and maybe you do need this, but just realise what you are getting. If you think that "practical" is going to drive the Christian life, you've got another think coming... If the GOSPEL is not plastered right, front and center, even for Christians who FAIL at those directions (Romans 3:20), then it is only going to lead to deeper and deeper despair...
Dr. Michael Horton, from a Q & A session, December 7, Evangelism Conference, Phoenix, AZ