Archive for the ‘sanctification’ Tag

Worshipping God with Our Lifestyles   1 comment

Sometimes it makes sensse to just focus on a single verse and there’s a lot in 2 Corinthians 7:1.

Thereforesince we have these promisesdear friendslet us cleanse ourselves from everything that could defile the body and the spiritand thus accomplish holiness out of reverence for God. 2 Corinthians 7:1

Image result for image of baptismPaul had told the Corinthians that God would walk in His temple, and dwell in His people, be their God, and they His children, that He will receive them, and be their Father, and they His sons and daughters. They already possessed these promises. They weren’t just the hopes of Old Testament saints. With the resurrection of the Messiah, the New Testament saints actually possessed what had been promised through the means of salvation. They had communion with God Who had received, protected and preserved them through the power of grace.

The Corinthian Christians were of God, being His people, His sons and daughters, adopted, justified, called, and chosen by Him.

And because they had all these promises, there were things they should do to show their appreciation for what God had done for them … and, by extension, us.

The Bible doesn’t teach that the flesh is evil, but it does make it clear that the flesh is corrupted and corruptible. If flesh were evil, God couldn’t have stepped down into it since eveything about God is good. But that doesn’t mean our flesh is good. Not being evil is not the same thing as being good.

Because we are born into a corrupted world, our flesh is corruptible. When Paul exhorted the Corinthians to cleanse themselves from “everything that could defile the body”, he spoke of external pollution, defilement by outward actions committed in the body, that defile us — examples like impure words, filthiness, and foolish talking, rotten and corrupt communication. The tongue, James the brother of Jesus said, is a little member, but it can defile an entire body and corrupt the good manners of others. But filthy actions also include idolatry, adultery, fornication, incest, sodomy, murder, drunkenness, revellings and everything that makes up filthy living.

“That which defiles the spirit” means internal pollution such as evil thoughts, lusts, pride, malice, envy, covetousness. The Jews believed that when a man had taken care to avoid defilement of the body, he must be careful to also avoid defilement of the mind because an evil imagination was likely to drag the body into all sorts of sin.

We don’t have the power to cleanse ourselves from the pollution of our nature. We’re born corrupted and our subsequent actions are also beyond our ability for redemption. It is God’s work alone that can cleanse us from our disobedience, which is why Jesus shed His blood on our behalf, so we might receive the sanctifying influences of the Spirit, which creates a clean heart within us, thoroughly and continually washed of sin as we allow God to work in our hearts.

Although Christians must always focus on our inward faith over any outward form of religion, Paul appears to nod toward at least some external religion — to keep ourselves separate from sin and the behaviors of sinners, to abstain from the appearance of sin, to lay aside activities that are not pleasing to God.

We’re not trying to make ourselves “holy”, for only God can do that. But having our lives dedicated to be good examples of what God wants in His believers is part of the service we offer Him in return for the salvation He has freely offered.

We do these things out of reverence for God — not because we fear Him, but because we recognize that He is deserving of our service, because He is the author of the universe and the Savior of our souls. Consider how a child obeys his father because he loves his father not because his father will punish him if he doesn’t obey, though that may happen if the issue is of great enough importance.

Keep Going   1 comment

Why is endurance so important if you’re a Christian? Isn’t our perserverance guaranteed? Once a believer, always a believer, right?

While our salvation is certain and totally secure, success in our Christian lives and ministries is not. Living for God’s approval is a lifetime achievement. In Corinthians 9:24-27 the apostle Paul coaches us to run for the prize.

Do you not know that all the runners in a stadium competebut only one receives the prize? So run to win. 1 Corinthians 9:24

 

Image result for image of the equinox marathonHere in Fairbanks, Alaska, we have an annual marathon. It’s run on the Saturday closest to the autumnal equinox – September 21. Weather here in Alaska can be … uh, challenging … in September, so sometimes the marathon starts in hypothermic conditions and ends in sweat-inducing +70s. Other times there’s been snow. Occasionally it’s been hot. When our son tried to run it a couple of years ago, it was pouring down rain and warmish, so that he ended up overheated in his rain jacket and had to stop. (He intends to try it again, if it doesn’t interfere with a climbing competition). You just don’t know what you’re going to get weather wise.

You start out on fairly level ground at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks campus, climb to the top of Ester Dome (in excess of 1000-feet of elevation gain) and then pound down the back side of the Dome to finish back at the University. It is considered by many marathoners to be either the first- or second-most-difficult marathon in the United States, second only to Pikes Peak, which is almost never run in hypothermic conditions.

I ran-walked it once. I was 20. I finished. I’m not a runner … more like a fast hiker, although I actually passed people as I ran on the Slide down the back of the Dome … but I kept going until I got to the end. I wasn’t last and I didn’t join the one-third of the field that didn’t finish at all. That’s an accomplishment for a non-runner in a tough race. I have since biked it a few times, but have chosen not to subject my knees to the punishment of the actual race. It’s a tough bike ride too.

Image result for image of the equinox marathonTo finish a race like the Equinox requires endurance and a determination to reach the end no matter rain, snow (yes, sometimes), pain, puking, or how many people pass you along the way.

Paul told us to run the Christian race with the intent to win the prize at the end of the race. Paul began with a typical Rabbinic question: “Do you not know?” Whenever Paul used this question he was confident that his readers already know the answer. This passage isn’t an exception.

We know that in any race there can only be one winner. Fortunately, Paul used plural verbs and the exhortation is not “you” singular but “you” plural. Paul was saying, “You all run in such a way that you all may win.” The prize is offered to each and every believer. Unlike a foot race, we’re not competing against each other. We aren’t like the front-runners in the Equinox. We’re in the back pack, where just getting to the finish line is the accomplishment. Every Christian can win the prize. That’s good news because there will always be someone faster, stronger, or smarter than us. That’s okay, because you and I are running against opportunities God gives us individually, not what He gives other Christians. We are competing against ourselves.

The running metaphor works like this: When a person believes in Jesus Christ he or she becomes a runner in the Christian race. Like it or not, you are a runner. In verse 24, Paul issued a command, “Run! Don’t walk. Don’t stop. Don’t sit down. Run because you can win the prize!” That’s how the Greek is worded. This is not a suggestion or a gentle guidance. The point of entering the race is to win the prize. Salvation is NOT the prize. Salvation is a free gift, so it can’t be the prize. The prize is an earned reward. Paul had been writing about his ministry as an apostle (9:1-23). He wasn’t discussing salvation. That’s the starting line. The Christian’s prize is the honor and glory of eternal rewards. It is the joy of hearing Jesus say, “Well done!” (Matthew 25:21, 23) This is the amazing grace of God. We receive salvation as a free gift and then the Lord blesses us on top of that with temporal and/or eternal rewards for faithfully serving Him.

So what does faithful running look like? Who are those who run in such a way that they may win?

  • Christians who finish their lives still growing, still serving in the Lord
  • Senior saints that persist in daily prayer until the Lord calls them home
  • Husbands and wives who stay faithful to each other “until death do us part”
  • Young people who preserve their virginity until marriage, in spite of crushing peer pressure to “test-drive” their sexuality
  • Pastors who stay passionate about ministry until their last breath
  • Church members who weather the rougher patches and remain joyful, loving, and faithful

Some of us have tripped over our own feet and are lying in the gravel. Others are standing in the middle of the course with our hands on our knees thinking “I’m not running well. I’m barely in the race at all.” There are some who are sitting down in the ditch, having decided they can’t go any further. It happens. As in the Equinox, so also in the Christian life. So what do we do about it?

Recommit to win God’s race. As long as you are in the race, run to win. Don’t just run to finish, but to win. Only by believing it can happen, and with a renewed resolve to win, is a comeback accomplished. If you find yourself far behind in the race, don’t give up. Keep on running. You can still win. Don’t quit. Living for God’s approval requires finishing well.

Each competitor must exercise self-control in everythingThey do it to receive a perishable crownbut we an imperishable one. 1 Corinthians 9:25

Not just the front runners in the Equinox, but a lot of people train to finish the marathon. Twenty-six miles is a long way.  Paul commended the commitment of athletes who will sacrifice everything to win a temporal prize. The phrase translated “competes in the games” comes from the Greek word agonizomai, used for competition here, gives us our word “agony”. Paul was talking about some heavy-duty sacrificial striving that requires “self-control in everything.” Paul’s analogy is training for the Isthmian games. All of the events in these games were one-person individual sports. The athletes could not coast in their training. They had to go all out! It required many months and even years of sacrificial discipline and rigorous self-control. These athletes kept a strict diet, made sure they got the proper amount of sleep each night, trained daily for their particular events, and performed strength and cardiovascular exercises. They often abstained from drinking and immorality. They ate, drank, and slept succeeding in their particular event.

These athletes went to such great lengths to obtain a “perishable wreath”—a paltry vegetable crown of celery. Of course, this crown eventually withers away. Most people don’t remember who won last year’s championship. It’s old news. Next season is coming.

If athletes are willing to undergo this type of discipline and self-control, how much more should we as servants of Jesus Christ be willing to endure? Unlike the athletic crown, our victor’s crown will affect us forever and ever. Paul stated that our reward is “imperishable”—eternal! Therefore, it does matter whether we gain or lose the prize. Only what you and I do for Jesus Christ will last and it will last for all eternity. Forever is a long time and we we only have 70 or 80 years to invest in eternity.

“Lord, stamp eternity on my eyeballs!” Jonathan Edwards.

Most modern Americans don’t excel at self-control, yet Paul warned it is necessary if we want to win the prize. What are your areas that need strengthening for the race?

  • Do you need to exercise self-control in your media intake? Do you watch too much TV? Do you play too many video games? Do you surf the web for too many hours?
  • Do you need to exercise self-control in your leisure? Do you spend too much time working out? Does your hobby come in the way of your relationship with God and your family?
  • Do you need to exercise self-control in your friendships? Are your friends more important to you than your God? Are your friends keeping you from being all that God wants you to be?
  • Do you need to exercise self-control over an addiction? Is food a drug to you? Are you a Christian glutton? Do you drink or smoke too much? Are you addicted to sleep? Do you need to repent for laziness? Are you a flabby Christian! The Christian life demands discipline!

Let me clarify that the Christian life is NOT a race to achieve entrance into heaven. We are saved by grace, not by effort, discipline, obedience, good works or anything else we do. We are saved by believing, not by achieving. We are saved for good works, not by good works. Still, the Christian life is a race to accomplish what God put us here for and present ourselves approved unto God. It is a race to finish in a way so as to hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Living for God’s approval requires finishing well.

So I do not run uncertainly or box like one who hits only air. Instead I subdue my body and make it my slaveso that after preaching to others I myself will not be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:26-27

Having just said that “the prize” lasts for eternity, Paul used his “therefore” statement and swapped metaphors. Because the prize lasts forever, Paul did not run aimlessly or shadow box. He’s training in earnest.

Some of us aren’t. Some of us are great shadow-boxers. We make loud noises about our faith when we’re in church, but when we get out into the real world, we never land a blow for Christ. Many of us are so ill-prepared that we are a sitting duck for the sucker punches landed by those who deny the faith! Yet, Paul informed us that only those who stay in the ring, duke it out, and make every blow count qualify for the crown. Like Paul, we must be motivated by the gripping thought of standing before Jesus Christ and giving an account of our earthly lives. We must have a purpose and a goal to please the Lord.

In Alice in Wonderland there is a scene where Alice asks Cheshire Cat, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” The cat replies, “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.” Alice says, “I don’t much care where…” and the cat replies, “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.” Alice says that she just wants to get somewhere, and Cheshire Cat tells her, “Oh, you’re sure to do that if you only walk long enough.” We are certain to end up somewhere. The important question is, “Where am I going?”

Paul concluded this paragraph by expressing a sincere fear that he himself could fail to win the prize. Instead of running aimlessly or shadow-boxing (9:26), Paul made this contrasting statement, “but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” With the judgment seat of Christ in mind, Paul wrote, “but I discipline my body and make it my slave.” The word translated “discipline” literally means “to strike under the eye” or “to beat black and blue.” Paul beat his body into submission doing all that he could to ensure his success.

Paul’s fear was not that he might lose his salvation, but that he might not persevere in his Christian life and ministry. The context of this passage and the rest of Paul’s writings bear this out. To Paul there was a difference between acceptance and approval. Acceptance is the result of a one-time act of faith. Approval is the result of ongoing faithfulness. God promises us His unconditional acceptance, but He does not promise us His unconditional approval. As a father, I will always accept my children but I may not always approve of their behavior. This is also true in our relationship with God.

As we contemplate the issue of God’s approval, we must recognize that Paul had four specific disqualifying sins in mind as he was writing these four verses. Where did I get that from? I read ahead just a little bit. Notice the first word in 10:1—the word “For.” That little word “for” (gar) is a bridge that continues Paul’s warning. The sins that Paul identified are:

  • idolatry (10:7)
  • immorality (10:8)
  • testing God (10:9)
  • grumbling against God (10:10)

Each of these sins was enough to keep Israel from finishing their race and winning the prize. They can act as stumbling blocks to us today if we do not continue to seek Christ’s approval.

Paul’s ultimate goal was the approval of Christ. As Paul’s death was quickly approaching, he had these words for young Timothy: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

The phrase translated “I have fought” (agonismai) is one word in the Greek. Interestingly, it is a form of the same word that was used in 9:25 that was translated “competes according to the games” (agonidzomenos). Both of these passages deal with the doctrine of eternal rewards. Interestingly, 1 Corinthians was one of the earlier books that Paul wrote (before his imprisonment by Rome) while 2 Timothy was the last, written while he was awaiting execution. What is the point? Paul finished his course because he kept his eyes fixed on the prize.

What I learned from my middling finish in the Equinox Marathon is what Paul was trying to teach in this passage. In the Equinox, except for a handful of front-runners, the race really isn’t against the other competitors. It’s really against yourself. Can you keep going until the end? My challenge for all of us today is to live for God’s approval by finishing well.

Anabaptists   Leave a comment

There are reasons I’m a Baptist by membership and here is one of them.

A young man grew up in our church, the son and grandson of devout Christians. When he was 8 he walked an aisle and made a public profession of Jesus Christ as Savior and was shortly thereafter dunked in the Chena River. When he was in high school, however, he came to doubt his Christianity. He decided he liked to be in charge of himself. He held this thought through high school into college.

He didn’t exactly quit believing in God. It is hard to live in Alaska and not at least think there has to be a higher order of intelligence behind the beauty here. That’s my own take on it from having been a completely unchurched teen when Jesus reached out to me. I always believed in some sort of high power in charge of Alaska’s beauty. For want of a better term, I called it God, but I by no means believed in the God of the Bible. It was more a god of my own design.

This young man continued to believe that there was something like a god and that being a good person was a good thing, but that whole Christianity thing — well, that put someone else in charge of his life besides him and he wasn’t interested. And he carried that attitude into college.

And then a relationship he had wanted very much ended abruptly and there was nothing he could do to stop it. He realized that as much as he had thought he was in control of his life, he wasn’t really in control of his life. Through that experience, he began to question whether rejecting Jesus as Savior was really the right way to go. Last summer, through the witness of his mother, he rededicated his life to Christian living.

But it wasn’t enough, he realized. He had actively said that Jesus was not God and could not be Savior and Lord of his life. He was sure now that he is a Christian, but as he started reading the Bible, he kept running across verses that said “If you deny Me before men, I will deny you before My Father.” He he knew he had done that. He began to question if that childhood experience of walking an aisle and being “baptized” had any validity.

So today, he gave his testimony before the church and was baptized, not only to assure that he was following Jesus in the appropriate steps of salvation and obedience, but as a public testimony of the inward change he has recently gone through.

Baptists maintain that baptism (full immersion) is an outward sign of an inward change and something to be done only by believers. We don’t baptize babies or very young children because we don’t believe they can grasp the concepts needed for salvation — sin, the need for regeneration, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, repentance. Usually, the youngest candidates for baptism are six or seven and I can count on one hand the number of those very young candidates who are still in church in their 20s and 30s. I tallied up the baptisms at my current church and the majority of them  have been older than 16, which says we are either very good at reaching adults for Christ or that we encourage our children to wait until their salvation is real to them.

Baptists do not believe baptism is retroactive. If you walked an aisle when you were nine and were dunked, but didn’t accept Christ for real until you were 21, you should be baptized now as a believer. If you were sprinkled as a baby (like my husband), that was a pretty ceremony for your parents, but it didn’t mean anything to you, so if you’re 21 and you accept Christ (like my husband), you need to be baptized.

Notice that I didn’t say “re-baptized”. If the candidate that goes under the water is not a Christian, the activity was not a baptism. Only believers can be baptized. Non-believers seeking to please their parents or look good just get wet.

And that is one of the reasons I am a Baptist, because it is understood that this young man was being baptized for the first time, in accordance with New Testament teachings.

This is another one of those church discipline things that modern churches really need to look at. If we’re serious about our faith and want to reach the world for Christ, we must first make sure that we are following His example and the example of the early churches.

Many Voices   Leave a comment

The spirit of the world today calls in many voices.

Philosophy sings that we should give up hope of absolutes and universals and place our trust in synthesis or else live our lives in cognitive dissonance segregating reason from faith, value and true meaning.

Art — mostly — reflects this. From the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, art was Duchamp - Nude Descending a Staircase.jpghumanistic. Consider Michelangelo’s statues boldly placing the human form on display (and, yes, the full frontal was a deliberate choice on my part).

Today, however, man is diminished in art, fragmented, distorted. Reality itself is rarely represented. The message is that everything is in flux. There is no truth or objective reality.

Francis Schaeffer decried the music of the modern era — using John Cage as an example, but Schaeffer never knew Hearts of Space and ambient electronica. I once was writing while the radio was on. When the sound became distorted and incomprehensible, I was so into my writing that I left it on for two hours, using it as white noise. Imagine my surprise when Steven Hill informed me that I’d been listen to actual “atmospheric music” with a composer’s name attached. It had sounded like an air conditioning unit to me.

Sadly, theology has joined the zeitgeist. Scripture is up for interpretation and it can mean anything — or nothing. As long as you feel good about the message you’ve assembled from the scraps you accept, it doesn’t really matter.

So we are told ….

Of course, the real battle is for our minds — our thought lives. Whether we listen to the music or enjoy the art is not where we rise or fall, but whether we are resisting the world-spirit in our thought lives.

“Be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” the apostle Paul wrote.

If we’re not going to get the world’s muck on us, the first order of business is to resist the world’s way of thinking in our own minds.

Down to Earth Detail   Leave a comment

We live in a world of moral relativism, so know what the Scripture teaches is essential.

Someone asked Jesus to identify the “greatest commandment.” It was a trick question. If He answered with any of the 10, He’d be deemed a false rabbi because each of the 10 is the greatest commandment. They’re all equal.

Which tells us something about God, if we’d really consider it. All of His commands are equal and so are all of our sins.

Little digression there. Lela

Jesus answered “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul and mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22:36-38).

Sadly, a person can hear this command and completely misinterpret it. The emerging church and the casual dabbler in verses will use this as an excuse for believing nothing and holding no moral standards. They’ll take the verse out of context and say that all that is required to be “right” with God is to “love” Him with all of your heart.

But Jesus didn’t make this statement in a vacuum. He was referencing the 10 commandments. His listeners knew that because He was quoting the Shema, which they used (and some still do) in their worship. We also know this because Jesus followed up with a second commandment.

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39)

If you read the 10th Commandments, you find these two commandments synopsize them perfectly. You can’t understand what Jesus actually meant without looking at the 10 Commandments.

What does it mean to love God with every fiber of your being (Exodus 20:1-11)? What does it mean to love our neighbor as ourselves? (Exodus 20:12-17). It’s very clear and it’s not easy. It looks a lot like morality and it appears to be non-negotiable.

Jesus was no modern philosopher spewing words of easy belief and content-less platitudes. The 10 Commandments provides absolutes in down-to-earth detail.

Anti Law   Leave a comment

The zeitgeist of ani-law always exists, but it manifests itself in different ways for different generations. For three hundred years in the Christian era, the world-spirit persecuted Christians. In the Roman Catholic era, the world-spirit actually worked through the ecclesiastical structure to put clergy in the seat of God, separating believers from a personal relationship. In the Protestant era, the rise of the state church sought to maintain that status quo. More recently, humanism and post-modern anti-belief-in-anything has been the flavor of zeitgeist for our society. The tone changes, but the goal is always the same — distract believers from God’s purpose and conform us to the world rather than to God.

If Christians are not to get the muck of the world on us, we must resist the general spirit of lawlessness, but we must also recognize and resist this generation’s flavor of rebellion.

That’s easier said than done.

Christians are naive if we think we are not surrounded by the world-spirit which claws at us from birth to death. A thousand voices obvious and subtle express its mentality every waking moment of our days. We try to shut our doors against it, but like the smoke of a forest fire, it works its way in and seeps into our subconscious. Worse — it infects our children and because everybody is doing it, it seems normal to them.

The solution is not to ignore the zeitgeist. We’ve been doing that for a long time. How’s that working out?

Instead, we should turn it up like we’re sitting in front of the speakers at Lollapalooza, so that we hear every word and can analyze what is being said. We know that the message is the same whether we’re standing in Renaissance Italy or Fairbanks Alaska in 2014. It’s all one message — the spirit of the world and the particular flavor it takes in our generation — is all an attempt to silence, mischaracterize, and marginalize the God of the Bible so that that the god of this world has no socially-acceptable rivals.

And, who is the god of this world?

Getting Dirty   Leave a comment

“It is difficult for a Christian to walk through the mud without getting dirty,” Francis Schaeffer (No Little People).

I’m basing the next few posts on Francis Schaeffer’s No Little People, a transcription of a sermon he gave at L’Bri in the 1980s. I’ve taken his thoughts – his prescience – and expanded upon it with my own thoughts since I have the advantage of having lived through the last 30 years. Lela

 

Schaeffer’s use of the word “mud” talks about the dirt of this world. God created a perfect world and we – through our rebellion – bent it. We live with the consequences of that abnormal damage, among which is the impossibility of our not being in rebellion against God. All humans are in rebellion. Christians have recognized it and asked God to overlook it based upon our accepting His forgiveness. That’s all that separates us from non-Christians. We accepted Christ’s forgiveness and it makes all the difference in our interactions with God, but we shouldn’t kid ourselves … we are still in rebellion; we’re just honest about it now.

God’s salvation was given in love. He didn’t have to give us that. Those of us who are aware of that love and wish to respond should care what God wants from us. He accepts worship, but more often than not, our worship should have hands and feet. We worship God in the way that we interact with the world. God, through the Biblical writers, told Christians how He wants us to interact with the world:

“And be not conformed to this present world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God – what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2 (Net Bible)

There is a world spirit that has existed since Adam and Eve rebelled against God. It takes different forms in every generation. Today we call it humanism, rationalism, the spirit of the world, zeitgeist – it’s all the same thing really. It is antilaw – revolution against God Himself. Instead of worshipping God as the Supreme Being, we try to step into His throne, to put ourselves at the center of everything and make ourselves the standard of value.

Humanism is Man with a capital M saying “I will only accept knowledge that I myself can generate out from myself.” As with all things spiritual, humanism affects the individual, who puts ME at the center of everything.

Jacquie Biggar-USA Today Best-selling author

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