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Posts Tagged ‘sanctification’

When it comes to our salvation, one of the most comforting thoughts is that God is “all-in.” Some people imagine (much to their needless worry) that somehow Jesus is convincing a reluctant Father to do a big favor and be nice to sinners; or that the work of the Son and the Spirit are somehow disconnected and perhaps even at cross-purposes; but all such unworthy notions should be put away when we read the testimony of the Scriptures.

Trinity sanctifies

The mystery of the Triune God of the Bible is great – and anyone who claims to have wrapped their head around the depths of the essence of the One-God-Three-Persons of the Christian faith is either a genius of the highest order, or else delusional (I vote for the latter).

But that doesn’t stop us from affirming, as Charles Spurgeon does above, the clear teaching of the New Testament: that God is united in His love, His intentions, and His work. God’s purpose is one – and He is all-in on our salvation.

We are sanctified (progressively purified and made holy) by, in, and through the single purpose and all-in activity of the living God – Father, Son, and Spirit.

AllIn

Today, we may feel spiritually dead. We may have defiled ourselves through some indulgence of sin last night. We may be filled (again) with doubts and anxieties. We may even feel like opting-out.

Has any of this changed God? Not a bit. His eternal purpose remains steadfast; His love is unfailing and unchanging. When God gives a covenant promise, it is not up for negotiation or renewal. His purposes are a cord of three strands, which cannot be broken.

All things are of Him and from Him, and He will bring all of His redemptive work to completion.

Our hope is not in a “part” of a fragmented or fickle God – it is in all of God, who is all-in.

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Is it really true that Christ heals all of our diseases (Psalm 103:3)?

We do well to pay heed to the encouraging words of the gifted English preacher from years past, Charles Spurgeon:

There is no relapse where Christ heals; no fear that His patients should be merely patched up for a season, He makes new men of them: a new heart also does He give them, and a right spirit does He put within them. He is well skilled in all diseases. Physicians generally have some specialty…but Jesus Christ is thoroughly acquainted with the whole of human nature. He is as much at home with one sinner as with another, and never yet did He meet with an out-of-the-way case that was difficult to Him. He has had extraordinary complications of strange diseases to deal with, but He has known exactly with one glance of His eye how to treat the patient. He is the only universal doctor…healing in every instance. Whatever our spiritual malady may be, we should apply at once to this Divine Physician. There is no brokenness of heart which Jesus cannot bind up. “His blood cleanseth from all sin.”

I’ve been to a lot of specialists lately. Even with all their training, each one is quite limited in knowledge and healing skill. Not so with Jesus. He knows every corner of my soul, and He has guaranteed that, in time*, I will be fully restored into His perfect likeness.

When we look at the accounts of Jesus in the gospel, we see His divine power meeting all sorts of diseases – physical and spiritual – and conquering them all.

  • Leprosy? -done.
  • Demonic possession? -done.
  • Blindness? -done.
  • Hardness of heart? -done.
  • Death? -done.

Think of all the people through the ages He has embraced with His powerful love!! The haters, the arrogant, the religiously proud, the disbelieving, the sexually immoral, the wandering, the despairing, the oppressed, the rebellious; murderers, thieves, liars, indifferent, self-satisfied, unstable….the list can go on for pages, for He has seen it all. And no-one takes Him by surprise or exceeds His power. Including you.

You gaze within and feel the discouragement of, once again, facing your temper. Your selfishness. Your immoral cravings. Your may feel ready, like Jonah, to leave your post and run off somewhere instead of obeying God. You feel the shame of your internal contradictions and wonder if there will ever be any deliverance. The deliverance is Jesus Himself; and we are to embrace his “all” in our case and say, “Lord, you’ve seen all this before; and you see me right now. I am not unique and I am not alone. I believe YOU – help me in my unbelief and discouragement. Your all includes me.”

Sometimes I like to look out over the ocean (on those rare occasions nowadays when I get to see a beach!) and think, “Who am I to think that all my foulness is bigger than that body of water?” Yet even the depths of ocean, which serve as an analogy of the love and forgiveness of God, are miniscule compared the reality of His infinite grace. All means all. Even all of me.

*ah, the inevitable asterisk. “In time.” We recognize that God chooses, at times, to bring immediate healing of some maladies (physical, spiritual, emotional, psychological), while in many cases He chooses to exercise His power over longer periods of time. I would just love for sanctification (the process of cleansing and purifying) to be immediate and on-demand – but the Bible makes it clear that we are to live in a long walk of obedience and faith, laying hold of the hope that ultimate healing of every effect of sin will occur when we pass from death to new life in eternity. Our glorification (all!!) is guaranteed; our gradual sanctification is getting us there.

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Clean-up on Aisle 7

If you’ve ever worked in a grocery store (I have; many, many moons ago!) you know what that dreaded overhead announcement means.

“Clean up on Aisle 7!”

Bring the mop and bucket, because someone just dropped a jar of pickles all over the floor.

Glass shards and smelly juice everywhere. Embarassment. Inconvenienced customers. And someone has to go out of their way to fix the mess.

Most days, I feel like my life is a continual cascade of pickle jars – and bread crumbs, and coffee grounds, and detergent, and milk – spilling all over every aisle imaginable. The volume of my own sin and folly – even after decades of walking with God – is disheartening.

Then I read, as I have this past week, of episodes where other Christians, and church leaders, spill their stuff all over aisle 2, and aisle 8, and aisle 15 – and it almost seems like one living, breathing mess. Scandal, hypocrisy, impurity – with no end in sight. And this isn’t unique to 2015 – it has always been thus. The struggle is real.

Yet Peter calls us to “keep (our) behavior excellent among the Gentiles.” We are to wage war against sin (not indulge it), so that the world sees our good works springing from a heart of holiness.

All this contradiction.

That is why we need God’s infinite grace, His undying patience. Because there will always be a mess on Aisle 7. And He has committed to cleaning it up – and fixing us up – through the sacrificial work of Jesus, and the steady, sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.

It is scandalous, this grace. How can God forgive murderers, adulterers, blasphemers, hypocrites, and backsliders? How can He keep putting up with all of my inward-scandals, my heart-sins, my disbelief; sweeping up glass shards day after day while slowly…oh so slowly…renewing me into His image?

What capacity to forgive – beyond anything we can begin to imagine!

There is only one conclusion – God is all-in on the messy work of giving new life to broken people. We’re all disasters, spilling stuff hourly and, many times, trying to hide the mess and deny that it was our doing.

Sometimes – often – I become discouraged by all the contradiction around me and inside me. But today, I must remember – God is up to the task. From the first pages of Genesis to right now, the human race, in sin, has been a colossal mess, and no believers have been exempt from dropping their pickles.

Let’s at least be honest before God and one another, about the reality of the brokenness we’re in. Brothers and sisters, pastors, and God Himself will be continually called to clean things up in Aisle ___ . Yet we also get to see His hand at work – patterns of sin broken, new light and life imparted, the image of Jesus steadily shining forth in each other, even in the chaos of a fallen world.

So let us rejoice, not in our attainments, but in His amazing capacity to love as a Father. All that stuff on Aisle 7? It’s meant to point us to the One who is perfect, and who will renew all things into His image. Even us.

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(a meditation on the book of Colossians, chapter 1:9-12)

As Paul rejoices in the evidence of God’s work among the saints in Colossae, he goes beyond giving thanks. Past and present grace point to future growth: he beseeches God for progress – for increase, and the continual outworking of practical godliness.

This is gospel hunger; when we see Jesus at work, in us and in others, we want more. In fact, when it comes to ongoing sanctification, that’s one place where God is quite happy for us be greedy!

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

We need (and seek) filling. While the initial work of salvation by faith is a marvelous work of transformation, it is only the beginning. Each day, we need more and more of God’s Spirit. He is an unlimited God, and our minds are darkened by sin; we can never gain enough wisdom and spiritual understanding. Today’s 30 watts of light is to draw us forward to tomorrow’s increase to 40.

We need (and seek) holiness. Walking worthy of the Lord means that our heart of faith is manifested outwardly by clean hands, bearing good fruit instead of returning to defiled, God-displeasing ways. A few external changes to please men won’t cut it here – this is a lifelong pursuit of conformity to Christ in order to please the God who loves us.

We need (and seek) power. Humbling ourselves to be saved by Christ makes us painfully aware of our weakness – our utter powerlessness to save ourselves. In fact, as we make progress in grace, we see even more of the depths of our weakness – and thus, we pant after the power of God to strengthen us. We know that we’ll never attain patience and holiness and fulness without a constant increase in God’s powerful work in us.

Paul understood that salvation was not merely the one-time embrace of a message. It is a death and resurrection, with constant infilling by the Savior who is determined to make us after His image – in this life, and in the life to come. Gospel salvation is progressive in its outworking.

Since we are to share in the inheritance of light with all the other saints in heaven, we gladly embrace the joyful hardship – the painful liberation – of making progress day by day along with our fellow saints on earth.

Colossians 1:1-2: Why Listen to this Paul Character?

Colossians 1:3-8: A Harvest of Gospel Fruit

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People write often about the mythical goal of “having it all” in this life.

Not. Going. To. Happen.

But if we take the Scriptures seriously, there is a powerfully comforting truth about “having it all.” While we’ll never have 100% of everything in day-to-day earthly experience, we are given ALL in Christ.

I was strolling around the house reading these verses aloud to myself this morning:

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sin. (Colossians 1:13-14)

In whom we have.

Redemption and forgiveness are given to us. All spiritual blessings are given to us. Christ Himself is given to us. We have it all.

Now we might not experience the fulness of these riches yet – the outworking is progressive, the infilling is a daily experience, the sanctification of each saint involves a long process of growth.

But what God has given, we now possess. Pardon. Adoption into His family. Enduring grace. Heaven. Himself.

It’s not a matter of God considering the possibility of embracing us. The Lord Jesus is not giving some thought to the idea of redeeming you and me. The Holy Spirit is not present one day, absent the next, undecided about dwelling with us and within us. The idea that a Christian has the blessing of God as long as he/she has his/her act together that day is a mockery of the gospel.

He has given. We have received. He possesses us and all that we are. We possess Him and all that He is.

The loving, adoptive parent makes a total and legal commitment – and wholehearted embrace – of the orphan child. Whether that son or daughter is 6 months old or 60 years old, he or she has the family name, love, and inheritance. In time, the realization all of those things will progressively come to fruition.

In fact, we can have it all. No — we DO have it all! And whatever we possess in seed form, will come to full flower under God’s loving and omnipotent care.

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The Goal of Stewardship: Fruitfulness *

We generally think about the life of Jesus, depicted in the Gospels, as one of ceaseless activity and unending supernatural works of power.

But think about this – how old was Jesus before His public earthly ministry began? Most estimates put him at about 30 years old.

The Son of God. Without sin. Yet, delayed public fruitfulness.

Even during His public ministry, there were seasons when certain activities were delayed. Read the brief account in the Gospel of John 7:1-9. Here, being urged to go up to Jerusalem for a feast (in order to demonstrate His miraculous works), He demurred, saying “My time is not yet here…” – just as He did at the beginning of His ministry, when urged by His mother to do something special at the wedding in Cana.

Moses. Abraham. Joseph. Hannah. David. Many of God’s saints through the ages went through years and even decades of delay before bearing their most significant fruit.

Maturation comes before fruit-bearing.

Expect_Delays

We are to be fruitful stewards, as much as within us lies – but also patient sons and daughters, allowing God to perfect His purposes in His (often inscrutable) timing.

Remember – what you read in the Scriptures is often the condensed version. Many years of less visible maturing work, of time-proven discipline, are left in the margins of our imagination.

I scratch my head in puzzlement when I look at my 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s. What was happening during those times for the kingdom? Was I doing anything worthwhile? And, frankly, that sort of introspection can be a real black hole of doubt and regret. How did the people of Israel feel, wandering about the desert for all those years??

Yet here is our hope – God is shaping and maturing us. Even in the seasons of delay and obscurity. Our greatest fruitfulness may be, to our surprise, still down the road.

I don’t like driving slowly through construction zones. But for sinners redeemed (and being redeemed) by grace, our life here on earth IS a construction zone. Expect Delays.

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* This series is part of a 12-week study on the topic: Being Stewards of God <— (outline). We’re now in week 5, considering how fruitfulness is the goal of stewardship. If you’d like to receive these posts in your inbox, just put your email address in the Email Subscription box on the blog’s right sidebar.

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Shades of White

I’ve always struggled to walk in the shades of white – that is, putting aside my native black-and-white perfectionism, and embracing the reality that there are gradations of good.

Shades of White

It was a reading in John Piper’s devotional book “A Godward Life” (excellent, by the way) that got me thinking more clearly about this today:

pipershades

Walking with a perfect God isn’t easy, you know what I’m saying? It’s so tempting to slip into the mindset that perfection is expected of us even in our fallen-but-redeemed state, when in fact what God is after is progress. Gradual whitening. If He is comfortable with shades of white, then I guess I need to learn to be also…

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