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Posts Tagged ‘Sanctification’

A colleague and I were discussing some of the challenges and emotional oscillations of our lives and work. She pointed out that we as Christians focus on our sin far too much and that we should focus on the victory we have in Jesus. I agreed and referenced a number of verses in support of focusing on overcoming sin.

Later I reflected on the conversation, finding nothing amiss, but still having some small discomfort over what was not said. You see, we live in a culture at large and Christian with many voices.

I read Puritan prayers, fully concurring with their attributing to themselves, and by extension me, actions, thoughts, intentions, and omissions no better than a worm. I am a sinner by nature and a sinner by practice. Job’s false comforter, Bildad the Shuhite, says truly, ““How then can a man be just with God? Or how can he be clean who is born of woman? If even the moon has no brightness and the stars are not pure in His sight, how much less man, that maggot,
and the son of man, that worm!” (Job 25:4-6) We are promised that we will be made perfect in heaven (Hebrews 12:23), but we fall far short, as it says in Romans 7:18-19, “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.” I have this fallen nature, but that is not who I am in Christ. I am a new creation, the old things passed away. (II Corinthians 5:17) I have the mind of Christ. (I Corinthians 2:16)

But more prevalent in our society than the worm mentality are voices that proclaim either overtly or by implication that each person is or can be perfect or powerful or in control, being or having god within us. These voices, though many proclaim to be, are not Christian. They are Humanist and counter to the Scriptures, attributing to man god-like qualities. Power of positive thinking gurus hawk self-improvement books and faith healer-prosperity gospel preachers tickle ears (2 Timothy 4:3). Whereas the Scripture teaches that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, KJV) Therefore “Thus says the Lord, “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord.” (Jeremiah 17:5, NASB*) And we struggle, as it says in Romans 7:18-19: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.”

Being neither worthless and unable to respond nor godlike and supremely powerful, “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price, therefore, glorify God in your body. (I Corinthians 6:19-20) We are “called as saints” (Romans 1:7), that is, sanctified or made holy. We called beloved: “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (II Corinthians 7:1) Because we are loved by God, we are both motivated and enabled (II Peter 1:3) to cleanse ourselves. That means avoiding sin (I Corinthians 10:13), quickly confessing sin (I John 1:9), and perfecting holiness are top among our duties. Don’t focus on your sinful tendencies; focus on your ability in Christ to daily overcome those tendencies. In balance, pursue victory, but take heed lest you fall (I Corinthians 10:12, KJV), informed by the Word of God and led by the Spirit of God.

*NASB is what I almost always quote from, but I use other versions on occasions for emphasis.

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Some things that we say and believe are not what we presently experience in full,
but are what is true about us in our new nature, is becoming true about us through
sanctification, and will be totally true in heaven.

Never lonely when He is near
Never overcome by any fear
Always hopeful though life be drear
Always at peace even when not all is clear

Momentarily disturbed, oh sure
Momentarily give in, not pure
Eternally made right, the cure
Eternally held tight, secure

Daily the struggle goes on
Daily His Spirit I must don
Slowly sinful tendencies gone
Slowly His righteous ways in me dawn

Fearfully and wonderfully made
Fearfully work out my salvation I am bade
Joyfully go forth with His aid
Joyfully with His Spirit arrayed

Nevermore sorrow overcomes
Nevermore to sin succumbs
Forever peace until and when He comes
Forever glorious gracious outcomes

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In Sunday School we have been studying Romans chapter 6. Some weeks we don’t even get through one verse. We were looking at verse 13: “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” The word translated “instruments” is frequently translated “weapons”, so Paul is using a metaphor that has the parts of your body likened to weapons of warfare. One of the drills in military procedures, particularly since the inception of the firearm, is “Present arms!”. The soldier is displaying his weapon for inspection, drill, and show of allegiance. Also, there is a significant parallelism here, and I find it easier to see if I diagram it. My pastor pointed out that presentation of your members to God is not doing good deeds, which leads to a self-righteous moralism, as opposed to sinning. Rather, we present our members to God, which means sin is everything that is not God and counter to Him. This verse is very practical when it comes to growing in sanctification. This idea is why we must put on the armor of God described in Ephesians 6:10ff. We are at war with the world, the flesh, and the devil, but “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).

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Jesus said, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

Reading in the Proverbs lately, the sanctifying role of God’s Word to bring understanding and wisdom has captured my notice.

The confused understand; the despondent move toward hope; the fearful find security; the naive accept knowledge; the conflicted settle into peace; the foolish walk in wisdom; the sad perk up with joy; the timid boldly tell of the Savior; the persecuted receive comfort; the sinners dodge wrath and bask in blessing; the righteous are clothed in discernment and eternal riches.

Our God through communicating to man imparts life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Psalm 84:11) “I wait for the Lord, my sol does wait, and in His word do I hope.” (Psalm 130:5)

May you discover more of His grace and glory, and may His blessing overtake you in His light and protection that surround you, as you seek to walk uprightly before Him in 2022.

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Over a period of time I was talking to a friend about her need of Jesus. During this time I had a loved one who was sick, bills were piling up, responsibilities seemed endless and overwhelming. One day in the presence of my friend I opened up about my fears and difficulties. On the one hand I guess it made me seem like a more real person, but the next time the subject of Jesus came up I quite honestly said, “I am asking you to trust Jesus when I sometimes struggle to trust Him myself.” She was quite understanding about my struggles, but I had a moment of deep conviction. If we are going to point a skeptical and dying world to the Savior, we must learn ourselves to react in faith rather than fear.

Just as “courage”, according to a quote by Franklin D. Roosevelt, “is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear,” so faith is not the lack of fear, discouragement, loneliness, temptation, confusion, or any other difficulty, but the firm conviction that God is greater and able and willing to give us peace and patience in the midst of the difficulty and regardless of the physical outcome.

I had a moment of fear the other day as I crawled into a tight crawl space to jack up a floor supported by rotten floor joists, which I needed to replace. It was so tight that I could not turn on my side until later when I dug out a space for my hips and shoulders. The fear was momentarily paralyzing, but then I took a deep breath and prayed that God would give me calmness. A peace washed over me in seconds. I had to pray again later when it happened again. I ended up working in this situation for eight hours, only crawling the 20 feet to the tight exit when I needed to cut a board or get an additional tool.

Many fears and difficulties are not so obvious as these two examples I have given. Because of their subtlety, many fears and doubts can creep up on us almost unbeknownst to us. We are tied up in a web of fear we never saw being wrapped around us. We learned it as a child. We think it the natural reaction of any sane person. We hardly give it heed, but are nonetheless confined by its stifling cords.

And that thought directs my mind immediately to Hebrews 12:1-2: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” The great antidote for fear encumbrance is “fixing our eyes on Jesus”. It was the same for us at salvation when the fiery serpent of sin had bitten us and we were destined for death. “And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.” (Numbers 21:9) Looking was equivalent to believing and had an immediate positive effect for John 3:14-15 says, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.” So, salvation was just a look, or glance, trusting God in Christ to overcome temptation, including fears; faith walk is a “fixing” of our gaze on Jesus. Every moment we are tempted to fear or go our own way, we must fix our gaze on Jesus. The result is that “no temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man, and God is willing, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will give you the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” (I Corinthians 10:13) And when you are tempted to have a worrying fear, “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, let your request be made known unto God, and the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

The Hebrews passage begins with “Therefore”, which points you back to the “chapter of faith”, Hebrews 11. This “great cloud of witnesses” fortifies our gaze on Jesus. We are not in this alone. Others have had worse difficulties and still fixed their eyes on Jesus. As the Holy Spirit enabled them to overcome Satan, temptation, and death by the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 12:11), so we are encouraged to do the same. Practicing this “fixing” brings endurance and the realization that Jesus suffered far more and had a victorious end.

I want to react in faith, not fear. It is a more peaceful way to live and a strong testimony for the truth of God being in my life. The realization that garden variety fear was stifling my walk and my witness has brought focus to my reaction in the last few weeks. I hope it is a focus that causes me to more frequently fix my eyes on Jesus in faith rather the circumstances in fear.

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It’s not enough that you know
Or have had a Jesus moment
Life in Him will make you grow
Sanctifying development

If you are not really sure
Receive the gift He does proffer
Then you will surely endure
No better or lasting offer

I would fall away from Him
By doubt or outright rebellion
Going out upon a limb
Cast away to oblivion

Nothing can me separate
Or plunge me headlong into hell
Nor peace with God confiscate
Of these with joy I do tell

I may walk by the Spirit
And not according to the flesh
Trust His words in Holy Writ
My joy and resolve intermesh

After the trials of this life
One day I will look on His face
When forgotten all the strife
With success completed the race

Some of my poetry is straight up how I feel and what I believe. Other parts are aspiration based on what I believe can be and should be and will be. This poem is a combination. Life is complicated and messy, but God is faithful and enables me more as the years go along and I submit to Him more. May He and the the grace He provides be glorified in my turning to Him in every difficulty and disappointment.

Also see “Response to Troubles and Trials

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Preachers love “p’s”, because there are such a variety of meaningful words, and particularly theological words, that begin with p’s for those three point sermons. One of those very memorable “triple p’s” concerns the progress of salvation in a person’s life that is summarized in Romans 8:28-30. Salvation has sequential nature to it.* My experience of salvation is past, present, and future. At the moment of my believing in Jesus, God justified me. Now He is sanctifying me. In the future He will glorify me. In the Romans passage, Paul speaks of all three of these in the past tense. I think there are two possible reasons for the past tense. For one thing, these events are so certain that they are completed even though not presently carried out. Secondly, it seems like to me, that since God is eternal and timeless, He sees the whole progress of the salvation He is bringing about in us as one event. He has accomplished it, it is complete, and it stands fast. Frequently this sequence of salvation is taught as God saving us from the penalty of sin in the past, the power of sin in the present, and the presence of sin in the future.

As I was reading in the Scripture yesterday, this triplet of penalty, power, and presence came afresh to my mind. Then I paused for a moment and reflected on the fact that this view of the work of God centers on His process to remove sin from us and us from sin. That is a good emphasis and right. But with what was it replaced, I mused? The answer is not hard; it is righteousness. And how might we think of His imputation of righteousness to us in terms of the progress of salvation?

In the past, we were saved for (by) the provision of righteousness. “ He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) This verse most clearly communicates the great transaction, the glorious transfer. Jesus provided me with His righteousness, therefore, I am justified in His sight.

In the present, we are saved for (by) practice of righteousness. “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13) As God is at work, he calls us to work along side Him in the power that He provides. He gets all the glory and we get the benefit of being changed and participating. As one of my pastor’s favorite** verses says, “…seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” (2 Peter 1:3) Perseverance of the saints is not merely hanging on by fingertips, but the ability to fully succeed as a believer.*** God and we are active in our sanctification.

In the future, we are saved for (by) perfection of righteousness. “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” (1 John 3:2) If you want to understand better what glory and glorification will be like, dwell on Jesus. (John 1:16-18) This realization is a great motivation to live a more godly life, as the next verse in 1 John 3 confirms: “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (v.3) God will one day glorify us so that we may see Him (Matthew 5:8).

In summary, and more concisely,

     I am saved from the

            penalty of sin (past),

            power of sin (present),

            presence of sin (future),

                         and

     I am saved for (by)

            provision of righteousness (past),

            practice of righteousness (present),

            perfection of righteousness (future).

*I do not say a “time element” because God’s predestination before time and our life in Him for eternity are timeless. However, there is both an order (sequence) and a time element to the moment of salvation, the process of sanctification, and the inception of glorification.

**And it is quickly becoming one of mine, given the great encouragement it gives that God cares and has already cared enough to provide all that we need to please Him and succeed.

***Those few who would shame Him by consistently only surviving are disciplined. (1 Corinthians 11:27-32)

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Overflows from the Heart

"But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart…" Matthew 15:18

CreatorWorship

Pointing to the One who made, saved, and sustains