Are You Resisting Sanctification?

sadness-man-in-the-shadow-1368461366ES7 I have been noticing a pattern of sin in my life that I know has always been there, but I never really recognized it for what it was. When God redeemed and made me a new creation almost 13 years ago, He gave me a new nature. As part of that nature, God made me aware of my sin, not in a generic sense, but in a very specific one. No longer did I feel bad about coveting, lusting, lying or hating just because bad consequences occurred. I actually began to hate my sin because I saw it for what it was, a rebellious act toward a kind and loving God. A God who mercifully redeemed me by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. And instead of just trying to find someway to justify my sin, I now wanted to repent of those things because I loved my Savior.

That battle to repent from my sins and to live a life that is pleasing to God has never been an easy one. In fact, one besetting sin stuck with me for over three years before God helped me to see just how wicked it was. Today I struggle with that sin, but I no longer dive head long into it. I make great efforts to never again set my feet anywhere near the path that leads me there. I rejoice when God gives me victory over sin, but I am ever aware that this wicked flesh is always waiting to find reason to transgress God’s law for its own satisfaction.

However, as of lately, I have become aware of multiple areas of sin in my life. Perhaps it is because my family and I have been going through many trials that I am more sensitive to His working in me. We certainly have had to rely on the Lord far more than ever before. As a result of that, I am becoming more aware of His working in our lives. And perhaps that is what has opened my own eyes to the sins I had previously ignored. Yet, it is my reaction to these areas of sin that is an even greater problem than the sins themselves. It is this area that I desire to share with you in hopes you can be edified and strengthened.

I have noticed that whenever I have begun to see an area of sin in my life that God is exposing, my first reaction, almost without fail, is to become upset, despondent, sad or depressed. I will practically shut down and begin to focus solely on myself and my failure to live up to the perceived standard I am supposed to live up to. I then complain about what a terrible Christian I am. I begin to seek comfort with family and friends, telling them about how bad I realize I am in the eyes of God. When they console me and tell me I am being too hard on myself, I feel refreshed, thinking I clearly have misunderstood what God was showing me. I then proceed on with my life as if nothing had ever happened.

Did you catch the sin? I see that God is showing me an area, or even areas, of sin, but rather than admit it and repent, I become introspective and complain to others. That is the sin. As a Christian, I am one time sanctified, made righteous in the eyes of God through the propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In other words, my rebellion and wickedness is placed on Jesus at the cross, His perfect righteousness is accounted to me through repentance and faith. From that moment on, I am seen in God’s eyes as perfect, because all my sin – past, present and future – was punished at the cross. So no matter how often I stumble into sin, I am secure in the Father because I was purchased by the Son.

However, it does not stop there. Throughout my walk as a Christian, I am sanctified by God. That means that He is continually working to make me more like His Son. He is ever growing me through the reading of His word, expanding my understanding of the richness of His grace. He leads me in deeper prayer and worship, causing me to love Him more, and in turn, loving others around me. He causes me to care less about myself and to desire to serve Him alone. And He is also constantly exposing areas of sin in my life, leading me to repentance. God is purging me of my sins so that I may reflect my Savior in my thoughts, words and deeds. This process of sanctification is ongoing, never ending, right up until the day God calls me home. On that day, I will be glorified. I will be made perfect and will sin no more. But until that day, God sanctifies me and every other Christian He has redeemed in Christ. So the process of sanctification should be welcome in the life of every Christian. After all, God is refining us in the fire, removing the dross which is the sin for which Christ died. Yet, I find that rather than embrace sanctification, I am actually resisting it.

When I become morose over an area of sin in my life I am actually doing a couple of things. First, I am actually denying my own sinfulness. By acting shocked that God has revealed more sin in my life, I am claiming I should be able to not sin. If I am in fact, as the Bible describes me, a wretched sinner deserving nothing but judgment from God, then I should not be surprised that everything I do is tainted by sin. I should expect, daily, God to be showing me areas from which I need to repent. I should express concern over sin in my life, because sin is wickedness against God; however, I should not become distraught over it. By succumbing to emotional turmoil, I am actually stating that I believe I am capable of not sinning. I am ascribing to myself a kind of sinless perfection that exists only in God Himself.

Secondly, when I become this despondent over my sin, my inclination is to seek comfort in the eyes of others. By seeking their comfort, rather than repenting before God, I am actually trying to deny that sin which God has revealed. As I described above, I have personally complained to family and friends when I start seeing new sins in my life. I seek their comfort because I secretly believe that they will dull the edge of the sword which God used to expose me. When we run to others, asking them to reaffirm our personal image of ourselves, we are asking them to actually act in God’s stead as our judge. We value their opinion over God’s word because we believe their personal relationship with us will prevent them from saying anything too harsh about us, even if it is true. We are further sinning because we are setting up men in the place of God to judge us. And if you doubt this, check your reaction when a loved one doesn’t affirm you, but rather points out that sin God is revealing. If you are even more hurt by what they say, then you know that you were not asking for the truth from them, but a lie which would make you feel better.

So by ascribing to ourselves a kind of pseudo-perfectionism and getting others to affirm it, we are actively resisting God’s work of sanctification. We are denying that we need to repent before the Lord and submit to His holy work in us. This is utterly sinful, yet we can submit to it so easily. We can justify this mindset because we know that we should not sin, especially because we have a new understanding of how evil sin is. So we make the mistake of setting up personal, legalistic standards that we can then judge the progress of our Christian growth by. In doing so, we actually are falling back on idolatry because we become the judges of ourselves rather than God. In God’s eyes we are completely sinful and only the blood of Christ makes us righteous. In our own eyes, if we can reach certain benchmarks, we can declare we are righteous by what we do. When God exposes sins that we were previously unaware of, it deals a serious blow to the idolatrous view of ourselves. Wanting to reassert that view, we can easily fall into the trap of resisting God’s work of sanctification.

So what are we to do? The first thing is to remember who we are in Christ. Before we were redeemed, we were rebellious and wicked sinners bound for Hell. There was absolutely nothing good about us. By recognizing this, we can do away with the absurd notion that we are capable of not sinning at all. We will sin, even as new creations in Christ. But because we have been bought by His precious blood and have been made new by the Holy Spirit, we have been set free from the bondage of sin. We no longer have to sin. We will be tempted because our flesh is weak and longs to be satisfied. Because of that, we will fall into sin. Yet, because the power of the Holy Spirit resides in us, we can trust in God, being slaves to Him, to give us a way of escape when temptation comes. So we recognize that we are not capable of perfection of our own accord, but only in the power of Christ can we resist temptation and sin.

The other thing we can do is embrace sanctification. Rather than retreating into ourselves and grumbling over newly discovered sins (or the discovery that we are still struggling with the same ones) we should rejoice that our heavenly Father is at work in us. By revealing this area of wickedness, God is seeking to make us more like His Son. He is refining us into a tool fit for His use. If I am overly concerned that I am still sinning, yet I do not repent, it is like I am refusing to sharpen the blade on a dull axe. Instead of making the tool fit for use, I am demanding that God use the tool in its busted condition. It is a ridiculous notion to think that I am already a tool that is perfect in design and will never fail. But if I yield to the sanctification of God, He takes me as that busted and worthless tool and makes me into one that is perfectly designed for the job He has in store.

My encouragement to my brethren is to examine your own heart when it comes to sanctification. If you are angry at your sins, depressed and begging for affirmation, then you are denying the need for God’s perfect work in your life. If this is happening, repent, turn from that wickedness and yield to God. It is part of His perfect plan and will that you be made into a tool fit for His use and His glory. Therefore, I urge you to submit to and rejoice in His sanctifying work in you.

The Necessity and Sufficiency of Scripture

Scripture: Necessity and Sufficiency 

Last week, we studied the authority and clarity of Scripture. Anyone recall anything about those subjects and why they’re important?  images

Today, we examine the necessity and sufficiency of Scripture. Again, two tightly connected attributes of God’s Word that are closely tied to the two we looked at last week. If any of these 4 attributes were to be determined false, it would call into question the entire cannon of Scripture. We study these attributes because they are important reminders of the character of our God and because it will equip us to stand against the wily schemes of Satan and countless minions.

Listen to this message here.

Tragedy in My Own Neighborhood

dead body outline Last week, a terrible tragedy struck in two homes just a stone’s throw from my own house. As of the writing of this article, one man is currently in custody on nineteen criminal charges, including the murder of five people. When I first heard of this terrible crime, my first thought, in fact my overriding thought the entire week, has been for the safety of my family. While that is a right and good thing to be concerned for, I have to confess, I have given little thought to the soul of the man who committed the murders. I have given thought to his crime, to the court system that will soon try and likely convict him, and the to application of justice against one who would harm innocent victims in this manner. Yet, at a time like this, I believe it is right that, as Christians, we should very concerned about the judgment of God which rests on the soul of this man.

A similar tragedy occurred less than two years ago in another city near my home when a man entered a restaurant and opened fire. Several people were hurt and killed, including three National Guard soldiers. In the wake of that tragedy, a man had responded to an online news article by stating he hoped the murderer would never be forgiven by God and would forever burn in hell. The anger in that statement shook me to the core. It is right for us to feel a righteous anger at the unjust murder of any person. But for someone to wish the eternal, conscious torment of Hell on a person startled me. I believe the author of that comment did not understand his own sinfulness and the necessity of God’s justice to be applied against himself one day. Had he understood the righteousness and holiness of God, he would have seen his own anger and hatred for what it was, a sin against the God who he wished would cause the murder to be eternally condemned. I wrote my thoughts on that tragedy then, asking those who profess Christ as Lord to consider our reactions to such terrible crimes and to pray for those who commit them.

I want to be careful not to simply repeat what I wrote then; however, certain themes and principles bear repetition. When I heard of the horrendous nature of this crime, I could not help but feel anger at the loss of life and pouring of such evil near my home. Yet, according the word of God, all of us are wicked in the eyes of God. Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). Every person in this world possesses a heart of wickedness, born under the curse of the original sin of our federal representative, Adam. When he rebelled against God in the garden, all of Adam’s descendants were forever tainted with sin. Thus, all that we can conceive of and do is affected by our self serving, sinful nature. Nothing we can do of ourselves will ever be “good.”

In fact, the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 3: 9-18:

“What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:
None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.
The venom of asps is under their lips.
Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.
Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.
There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Quoting from the Psalms, Paul makes the case that there is nothing about us that is good in the eyes of God. Even when we claim we believe in God and are trying to obey Him, Paul makes it clear that none of us actually are seeking after the true God. Because of our sin nature, we in fact create idolatrous versions of God. We seek to worship a god of our own creation, one who either will not take our sin seriously, or one which will allow us to do some sort of work to personally make up for it. Neither is the true God, but is in fact a god of self. We are worshiping our own perceived innate goodness, thus proving we are the very wicked sinners who Paul is writing about. Outside the regenerative work of Jesus Christ, we cannot truly seek after and worship God. Therefore, we will pursue the wicked desires of our own heart while professing our own self righteousness along the way.

Matthew 5:21-22 records the words of Jesus who said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” Chris Himself declared that a person who harbors anger and insults another person will be judged the same as one who commits murder. In other words, whenever you have been angry at or felt hatred for another human being, God has seen you as wicked a sinner as the man who killed five people in my town. That is applicable to each and every one of us, myself included. That should terrify us. When I am horrified that my neighborhood was rocked by such evil, I should also remember that, in the eyes of God, I am as terrible a sinner as the one who committed the evil. God judges the thoughts and intents of the heart, not just the actions.

This brings me back to my original statement. When I thought of the tragedy committed by this man, I gave no thought to his eternal state before the Lord. I focused solely on the crime and the danger to my family. As a Christian, I know that I have sinned in the areas of anger and hatred. Yet, God in His mercy has forgiven me through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. I rightly deserve His wrath, but Christ took the righteous judgment of God upon Himself for me at the cross. He suffered and died for the sins of my heart. He was buried, yet rose again, defeating death and granting me eternal life. If I know that I was deserving of such condemnation, but was forgiven, then I must desire to see even the most vile and wicked murderer to receive the precious gift of the gospel.

Does this mean that I should not be concerned about the terrible events in my neighborhood, and shouldn’t bother taking steps to protect my family. Certainly not. Knowing that I live in the midst of a wicked and perverse people, wisdom dictates that I be aware of the dangers that surround us and take to the proper steps to keep my family from harm. But I must also desire to bring the precious gospel to that same wicked and perverse people. I was a wicked sinner just as they were, yet I was saved by the blood of Christ. If I ever believe that somehow the crimes of someone are beyond the saving grace of Jesus, or that, because that criminal was so vicious, I simply could never share the gospel with them, then I prove myself an even greater sinner than the murderer. I write this to encourage my brethren to look at the tragedies that surround you in light of the gospel. Certainly, we can feel fear, sadness and even righteous anger. But never let us see ourselves as better than those who committed these crimes. Let us pray for them and even go to great lengths to bring the life saving gospel to their perishing souls.

Scripture: Authority and Clarity

Why is it important for us to study the authority and clarity of Scripture – anyone have any ideas? images

Does The Fall reveal anything of the importance of these two issues?

Let’s take a look at Genesis, but bear in mind the nature of Scripture – the Word of God. Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Gen 3:1) The first and primary point of attack of Satan and all his allies is to cause people – both, God’s redeemed and those who are lost – to doubt God; to doubt what He said, to doubt that He said anything; to doubt that He matters. Seeking to cloud what was clearly revealed by God to man is of utmost importance to the enemies of God. Often times, false teachers put false words in the mouth of God – But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:4-5) Falling for the wiles of Satan or the siren call of our own sinful desires will lead us away from the Truth of God’s Word, and displays a lack of contentment with what the Creator and Ruler of all things has decided was adequate to provide and reveal to us.

Listen to this message here.

Can We Reason With a World that Hates Christ?

bible-open-to-psalm-118 Can we actually reason with a world that hates Jesus Christ? It’s a strange question, but one that I feel is very important. As Christians, we understand that, under the moral law of God, we stood as convicted criminals before Him. Every thought, word and deed in our lives was contaminated by our sin nature. That means that nothing about us was good in the eyes of God. In fact, on our very best day, where we did everything “right,” God saw us as rebel sinners who were only motivated by our most selfish desires. We were destined for the fires of Hell and rightfully so.

Yet, in His mercy, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to live the life of perfection we could never achieve. Everything He ever did was in complete obedience to God, with no motivation other than glorifying the Father. Then Jesus willing allowed Himself to be placed on the cross so that the righteous wrath of God could be poured on Him in our place. He readily took the punishment we deserved and became the substitutionary sacrifice in our place. Then Christ rose Himself from the grave three days later, proving His power over death. Through the preaching of the gospel, God miraculously and mercifully granted us repentance and faith in Christ. He redeemed us through the shed blood of His Son and adopted us as His children.

Before God redeemed us and made us into new creations, such concepts were completely foreign to us. Sin, judgment, hell, sacrifice and redemption were concepts we may have heard of at some point; however, our minds were hardwired, due to our sinful nature, to see ourselves as good. If we even believed we were capable of being bad, then we believed we could do enough good to make up for it. The idea that Someone had to be punished in our place was ludicrous to us. Yet, God broke through that sin hardened heart with the gospel message which caused us to be broken over our sin and saved us from His wrath.

The reason I write this is that I need to establish a foundation for the rest of the article. It was only through the precious message of the gospel that Christians now understand the evil that resides in their hearts. Prior to that, sin was a foreign concept that could either be rationalized away or personally atoned for. The world is made up of billions of sinners whose hearts are hardened against God and His commandments. While they have knowledge of His existence according to Romans 1, they suppress that truth in unrighteousness. The law of God is written on men’s hearts, but they reject the authority God has over them, making themselves gods over their own lives. Consequently, the rampant sin we see in our world – sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, abortion, hatred, lust, covetousness – is the byproduct of a world governed by sin.

I now come back to my original question. Can the church reason with a world that hates Jesus Christ? Today, we see a lot of churches and Christian groups lobbying and protesting against the widespread debauchery of our day. Many are willing to link arms with co-belligerents (be they political, secular or religious) in an effort to bring “morality” back into the world. Often times, such groups will state that arguments of a philosophical or sociological nature are the means by which to achieve moral victory because the world rejects the Bible. The claim is that, because the world doesn’t understand the scriptures, it rejects them. Therefore, we cannot use the Bible as our source material. We must, they say, speak to them on their level and prove to them, without God’s word, that God’s morality is superior. In the end, if we can legislate a Christian worldview into existence, the world will be in a much better place.

Such an argument, on its surface can seem to have merit. After all, as stated above, mankind is utterly sinful and rebellious against God. Since that is the case, by bringing the Bible into the discussion seems to guarantee that they will reject what we have to say. However, that argument assumes that the purpose of the church is to somehow redeem culture. In other words, the job of Christians is to make the world a more moral and pleasant place to live. That by changing the standards of the laws and morality to a Christian worldview, life will be better. But is that really the mission of the church? I would argue that it is not.

When a person is redeemed in Christ, he is to live his life in such a way as to glorify the One who purchased him. A Christian does not exist to make the world a better place to live, but to serve as a beacon, a sign post pointing to Jesus Christ, the Savior. By living a life of obedience to God, and acknowledging Him in all that one does, the Christian testifies to the world that his allegiance is not to the fallen, sinful system of mankind, but to the One who will one day judge all men. Thus, his job is not to necessarily fix a broken system. Short of all mankind being saved in Christ, no system established in this world will ever be fixed. It will always be tainted by the sinfulness of the human heart.

The Christian’s calling then is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, the One who came to save sinners. Any attempt to cure societal ills (which is not the specific calling of the Christian) by arguing with worldly philosophies, allows people to believe that they, not God, are the chief authority in this world. We are allowing them to deny the power and lordship of Christ. They will continue to operate in the delusion that they are the ones who decide right and wrong, good and evil. Thus, without the Bible and the power of the gospel, the unregenerate world will continue to operate in its sin tainted worldview. Any changes that occur, moral or immoral, will still result in billions of souls condemned to hell, despising the God whom they have denied and rejected.

Therefore, the duty of the Christian is to always – not sometimes, but always – preach the gospel in any discussion we have with those in the world. If we are discussing homosexual marriage, the gospel teaches that sex was created by God for a man and a woman in the confines of a lifelong, monogamous marriage (which reflects Christ and the church). Any other act of sexual intimacy is a sin and rebellion against God and will result in the judgment of God. Thus, we stand against it and we proclaim that good news that Christ came to save homosexuals. If the issue at hand is abortion, the gospel says that all life is created in the image of God and that abortion is the murder of life created by God. Thus we stand against it and we proclaim that Jesus Christ came to save women who want to murder children and the abortionists who commit the detestable act. If the matter is a tyrannical government, the gospel teaches that God appoints leaders over people for the good of the people, that those under the government are to obey the leaders, and that God will hold those in account who abuse its citizens for their personal gain. Then we preach the good news that Jesus Christ can save even tyrannical leaders if they will but repent and trust in Christ alone.

Christians, we cannot reason with the unregenerate, Christ hating world on their terms. They have no reasoning outside of God and we only will feed their insatiable appetite for sin. We must always preach the gospel, regardless of whether the world agrees with it or not. The gospel is the power of God to salvation. Only the gospel can change sin hardened heart. Only the gospel can bring a dead man to new life. Let us be less about the winning of culture and be more about the winning of souls condemned to Hell. If we commit to be obedient in this calling, then the Lord will save whom He will save. And if scores of untold souls are saved, then the consequence may just be a society that desires to live morally because it loves the Lord who established true morality to begin with.

Cross Encounters Radio: How Can a Person Know They are Saved?

20121217-090608.jpg I was blessed to be able to sit in as host to Cross Encounters Radio this week. In preparation for the show, we had asked listeners to let us know what topics they would like to hear discussed. One topic came up repeatedly, how can a person know they are truly saved, and conversely, what are the marks of a false convert. I pray that this discussion during the first hour of the show brings glory to God and is edifying to the saints. If you do find it is blessing, would you consider sharing this with others, for I believe this is a vitally important topic for Christians to understand. Thank you.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/cross-encounters/2013/05/06/cross-encounters–how-can-a-person-know-they-are-saved