Sanctification 103: The Holy Spirit & Me

This third blog about sanctification has one simple point: Everything was imagedone by Jesus, not so that you could do nothing, but so that you would desire and be able to do something.

That “something” is gospel-inspired, spirit-empowered, pursuit of righteousness and fight against unrighteousness.  The purpose of this pursuit is, ultimately, satisfaction in God.  I would agree with John Piper whose life is devoted to the belief that: God is most glorified when I am most satisfied in Him.  In other words, satisfaction in God and glorification of God are intimately connected.

I believe that obedience, which begins with believing the gospel, is the greatest way to glorify God AND be satisfied. I  agree with Jesus who said in John 15 that abiding in Him, through obedience to His commands, results in joy.  Sadly, calling people to pursue obedience is rarely perceived as having to do with experiencing joy in Jesus. On the contrary, many  characterize such calls as guilt-trips or recipes for legalism.  It must be possible to call people to “make every effort” to obey Jesus commands.  If not, Peter, Paul, James, and even Jesus seem to have been wrong, or at least, woefully insensitive.

To be clear, those who are in Christ have been “made” righteous by His obedience (See Romans 5).  Said another way, the reason we are righteous is because Jesus died FOR us. BUT…the reason we can pursue godliness is because Jesus lives IN us. And this is where the conflict ensues.  Even if we agree that we are all meant to “mature in Christ”, exactly how that happens is still in question. One of the great points of contention regarding progressive sanctification is the role of men versus the role of the Holy Spirit. How much am I “doing” and how much is He doing?

What if it is both?  I don’t mean some kind of 50/50 relationship, more like 100/100.  What if the Spirit gives us desires AND we must act on those desires? What if the Spirit gives us energy  AND we have to spend it? What if the Spirit gives us gifts AND we have to use them? What if the Spirit gives us paths to escape temptation AND we have to take them?  What if the Spirit gives us tools to mature in Christ AND we have to pick them up? This seems to be what Paul means when he says:

Philippians 2.12 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

The same grace that saves us is the same grace that moves us.  Grace does not give us permission to do nothing.  It gives us comfort when we fail at what we do and humility if we succeed. The pursuit of holiness is not about performing to impress God or others; it is about progressing in our affection toward God and others.

We don’t just sit and wait for the Holy Spirit to act upon us.  If He is in us, we should possess a desire to pursue holiness–to grow up in Christ. And while we cannot control how fast or well we grow, we can waste the grace we’ve been given. I believe the Holy Spirit works through the tools of grace  God has given us (See Sanctification 102).

  1. The Holy Spirit cries out “Daddy” and reminds us of our identity as a child of God through meditation on the gospel
  2. The Holy Spirit teaches to us through reading God’s Word of God, revealing who God is and what His will for us is.
  3. The Holy Spirit speaks for us to God in prayer,  helping us to commune with our heavenly Father so we can  live for Him.
  4. The Holy Spirit comforts us when we sing praises to Jesus, reminding us of who He is and what He has done for us
  5. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our disobedience and helps us resist temptation and pursue obedience.
  6. The Holy Spirit ministers to us through His presence in the hearts and hands of those in the body–to heal and strengthen.
  7. The Holy Spirit directs us to go on mission and empowers, equips , and enables us accomplish his work there.

We grow in grace when we engage with it.  And we engage with it, or at least desire to,  when we experience it in salvation. Paul says it well:

1Corinthians 15.10 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

Let us not waste God’s grace toward us.  Let us work hard for Christ  by the grace that is our sin Christ–for His glory and our joy.

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Sanctification 102: The tools and how they work

Our sanctification began before CREATION. According to His purposes, to imagethe praise of His grace, God SET APART a people to be saved from sin.  Sanctification is completely accomplished  (IN OUR SOULS) through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, increased throughout life in our flesh by the Spirit (IN OUR BODIES) , and completed at Jesus’ return.

There some argument over prepratory sanctification, minimal argument over positional sanctification, and a lot of argument over progressive sanctification.  Essentially, there is a lot of confusion about how we grow in our holiness if Jesus has already made us holy.  It is true that God demands our holiness.  That is why he sent His Son to be a substitute for us–he produced the holiness I needed through a sinless life and paid the penalty for the unholiness of my sin.

God demands perfection, that is why He gave us His substitute. But God also commands holiness, that is why He gave us His Spirit.

We have been placed IN CHRIST through union with Christ.  This is something God has done.  It is something that does not change regardless of what we do or don’t do.  Our position is secure now and in eternity.  We are God’s adopted children, heirs with Christ, never to be forsaken or separated from God’s love.

But, even if your UNION with Christ cannot change (for better or worse), our COMMUNION with Him can.  We are IN CHRIST, but we can MATURE IN CHRIST.  Our relationship with Jesus can grow in its intimacy, sanctity, and joy.   In other words, everything was done by Jesus, not so that you could do nothing, but so that you would desire and be able to do something.  That something is a gospel-inspired and spirit-empowered pursuit of holiness in our bodies (lives).

The reason we are righteous is because Jesus died FOR us. The reason we can pursue holiness is because Jesus lives IN us.

The “putting off” of the old self/sin, as Paul writes in Colossians 3, is called MORTIFICATION.  The “putting on” of the new self/righteousness, is called VIVIFICATION. Mortification describes the lessening influence of sin in our lives, and the vivification describes the increasing influence of Jesus in our lives.   Neither of these establishes or affects our position in Christ which has been secured by Christ.  On the contrary, they flow from a deep belief in that position.  We do not resist unholiness and/or pursue holiness believing God loves us when we succeed or hates us when we fail. Rather, our pursuit of holiness is inspired by the gospel which declares I am accepted based on Jesus obedience, not mine.  This pursuit is not out of a desire to be loved more, but out of a desire to love God, and others, as He has loved me…more.

A pursuit of holiness is not merely a response to God’s grace, it is the effect of it.

How does this happen? How do we resist unholiness and pursue holiness? First, it begins by meditating on grace. The same grace that saves us from legalism (believing that my obedience to the law saves) is the same grace that saves us from lawlessness.  Paul writes in Titus 2.11-14:

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

But how do we engage this grace?  How does grace “train u to renounce” ungodliness?  Is this just an cerebral endeavor?  I believe that what should always begins in the heart and continues with a setting of the mind (See Colossians 3) should, and will, flow out into the hands.  And God has given us tools through which we can experience the grace of Jesus.  Some of these include:

GRACE FROM MEDITATION ON JESUS (1Corinthians 3.18)
GRACE FROM STUDY OF GOD’S WORD ABOUT JESUS (John 17.17)
GRACE FROM PRAYER THROUGH JESUS (Ephesians 6.18; Phil 4.6)
GRACE FROM WORSHIP OF JESUS (Ephesians 5.18-20; Col.3.16-17)
GRACE FROM OBEDIENCE TO JESUS (John 15.9-11)
GRACE FROM FELLOWSHIP WITH JESUS’ PEOPLE (Hebrews 10.24-25)
GRACE FROM MAKING DISCIPLES OF JESUS (Matthew 28.19-20)

Even if these tools do not change Jesus affection for us, they will change our affections for Jesus.  They will help us become in practice what we already are in position.

This requires effort as seen in Ephesians 4, Romans 8, Colossians 3, 1Peter 1, 2Peter 2, and any number of other letters which call us to strive, put off, put on, and make every effort.   Without question, we are not to live by works, but we will work if we are really alive! (See James 2).

Effort is not wrong.  It is not wrong to work to be moral.  It is not wrong to work hard doing good.  It is not wrong to work at learning more about God.  It is not wrong to work at being a better husband/wife.  It is not wrong to work to live more like Christ.  It is wrong to believe that your efforts are meritous in nature.

Effort for the the purpose of meriting favor is condemned.  But effort that is driven by the gospel is a commanded.

And remember what an old Puritan said…”For every look you take at your sanctification, take two looks at your justification.”  Suffice to say…we must look at our sanctification…but there is an important order to things.

Sanctification 101: The Different Kinds

For the last several Wednesdays, our church has been spending time sanctifyexploring the theological concept of sanctification.  Simply stated, the idea behind sanctification  is that of “setting apart” someone, or something, for special use.

Biblically, this primarily describes the act of God who separates or consecrates something as holy.  The first instance of this happening is when God sanctifies the 7th day of creation—recognizing it as holy.  The secondary meaning of the word involves the idea of “moral” or “ethical” renewal or cleansing.  In this sense, “sanctification” connotes the idea of a process being made more holy or righteous as read in passages like:
1Thessalonians 4.3-5  For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.  

Theologically, sanctification is connected with salvation. Salvation is a term use to describe the deliverance of men from the curse of sin through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In some sense, salvation is both an ACT of God’s grace on the cross and a continuing WORK of God’s grace through His Spirit.  Sanctification is a comprehensive term that describes multiple layers of salvific deliverance—past, present, and future. In other words, we have been saved, we are being saved, AND we will be saved in eternity. (i.e. Been sanctified, being sanctified, will be sanctified)

There are four different kinds of sanctification that help describe this”process” of deliverance.

  1. Prepratory Sanctification:  God Father plans redemption before the foundation of the world. Including in this plan is a decision to set apart individuals to “make holy and blameless” for his purposes–which is to reveal the riches of his glorious grace in Christ.  Prepratory sanctification is the pre-work of God’s Spirit whereby he elects a people–setting them apart–to be saved from sin. This is commonly referred to as predestination.
  2. Positional Sanctification:  Having been prepared, we are delivered from the penalty, guilt, and shame of sin the moment we received God’s grace and, through faith, and rust in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  In that moment, the Spirit applies the atonement to the heart of one of His elect.  By grace, through faith, that individual is placed “in Christ”.  Positional sanctification (justification) delivers us from the penalty and authority of sin. This is commonly referred to as justification.
  3. Progressive Sanctification: Even though we have been sanctified, and placed “in Christ” God is still sanctifying us in our daily lives.  This is because the Spirit of Jesus that SAVES US is now living IN US.  Having been placed in Christ, by His Spirit, we are maturing in Him or growing up into Christ.  Our UNION with Jesus is perfect  in our souls, but our COMMUNION with him fluctuates  in our bodies.  Said another way, over a lifetime, we become in practice what we are in position.  Progressive sanctification delivers us from the power /influence of sin.This is commonly referred to as sanctification.
  4. Prospective Sanctification:  The final stage in the sanctification process is the completed salvation of the believer. This is experienced at the resurrection when the believer will be transformed into the likeness of Christ and presented to the Lord as holy. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer is both the promise of and the agency for this future perfection. Final sanctification completes our salvation in that it brings our position and our practice together.  Prospective sanctification delivers us from the presence of sin. This is commonly referred to as glorification.

Even if describing salvation in terms of sanctification is uncommon, the convictions behind each of these is accepted by most evangelicals (apart from the nature of predestination).  There are, however, wide divisions regarding progressive sanctification, namely, how it works and who does that work.  I will tackle that in that next blog.
NEXT BLOG:  Sanctification 102: What are the tools of Sanctification?

 

Re: Sermon | Stop Tooting Your Own Horn

Taken from Jesus on Self-Promotion | Matthew 6.1-4

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”

“Being noticed is not evil; but trying, expecting, or wanting to be noticed may be.  And this is where all of us live.  Our culture is all about being noticed for the good, bad, or weird thing you do.  While its unlikely you’ll post a YouTube video that will go viral, you can still try and get noticed by others on Facebook, or FAKEBOOK.  If Jesus were on earth today, I think instead he may have said “what comes out on Facebook proceeds from the heart.”  Of course, you don’t believe you’re on there to get noticed…but you are.  I will contend that most of what men/women put up on Facebook is motivated out of a desire to make other people think a certain way about THEM—usually positive.  Whispering wasn’t invented for compliments and Facebook wasn’t invented for confession.

FAKEBOOK is all about making your life appear better than it actually is. We upload “artistic” profile pictures so people think we’re good looking.  We wish our brides happy anniversary to make people thing we’re good husbands.  We report the dates we go on with our daughters so that others will think we’re good Dads.  We post pictures of our food so people will think we are good cooks.  We post quotes from books we haven’t read so people will think we have good brains.  We like organizations so that people will think we are good citizens.  We friend people we’d never talk so people will think we are loving. We like comments so that people will think we are good friends.  We post rants so people will think we are good consumers.  FAKEBOOK is all about making your life appear better than it actually is—its’ a giant APPROVAL machine where we pretend to be someone else so that others will like us.  FACEBOOK is the biggest trumpet we have today—it’s a one billion person brass band!”

Weeping to the Glory of God

32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” Jn 11:32–44).

A good friend lays dying today, and I find myself unexpectedly weeping throughout the day.  I am learning how to mourn well, to the glory of God.  We speak about the glory of God often in our church.  We should.  But I wonder if a strong emphasis on the glory of God may in fact hinder us from weeping.   God’s sovereignty in all things means that, though we are surprised by suffering, He never is.   It is all part of His plan (Though true, I am not sure that is the most comforting doctrine in the moment–though it is a powerful source of peace).  The fact of God’s sovereignty should not take away from the sorrow that suffering brings.  Let us not avoid emotion and tear-lessly declare, “God has a plan.”  Weeping at loss is not a sign of a confession of one’s faithlessness (or forgetfulness of the eternal perspective) but quite the opposite.  It is a bold recognition of sin and a cry for a savior to redeem us.

I have recently been struck by Jesus’ example in John 11.  Jesus good friend Lazarus has died.  He arrives on the scene to a family mourning their loss.  Now, if there was anyone who understood the glory of God, anyone who lived with an eternal perspective, anyone who knew what was going to happen next (he would raise Lazarus from the dead), it was Jesus.  Yet, Jesus was deeply moved.  Jesus  was troubled.  Jesus cried.

I pray that our church will not hide their emotion behind a theology.  We grieve, but we grieve differently.

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.1 Th 4:13–14. 

Am I a Christian? A simple “self”-test from 1John.

1JOHN 1 TESTImage

v. 6 – 7 Do you walk in the light or the darkness? If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.

V.8 -9 Do you believe you are a sinner? if we say we have no Sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

1JOHN 2 TEST

V.3 -5 Do you keep his commandments? And by this we know that WE (not YOU) have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.  Whoever says I know him but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.

V6.  Do you strive to live like Jesus? whoever says he abides in him, ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

V.17  Do you love the world?  Or do you love God’s will?

V. 22  Do you believe Jesus of Nazareth is God incarnate? No one who denies the Son has the father.  Whoever confesses the Son has the father also

1JOHN 3 TEST

v. 1-10 Do you make a practice sin? (NOT DO YOU SIN) Do you practice righteousness?

v. 16 Do you make sacrifices for your brothers?  Do you make an effort to live like Jesus?

1JOHN 4 TEST

v.  2 Do you confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh and is God?

v. 6 Do you read the bible and receive to what it says?

v. 7  Do you believe God loves you?  Do you love others?

1JOHN 5 TEST

V 8.  Do you desire to obey his commandments?  Are they burdensome?

 

Why write this blog?  1John 5.13 – I write these things to you to you who believe in the name of the son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.

For Freedom Christ set us free…for free

So, there are a lot of things that Christianity has become defined as…and as I have talked to different people, I have learned one thing that it IS NOT understood as, one thing that all of those TV shows, individuals and churches have in common, is that for some reason, people do not see that the gospel of Jesus Christ is FREEING.   They see religion.  They see control.  They see oppression.  The concept of being set free is, in many ways, the last thing that comes to mind for non-believers—and perhaps even a lot of believers.  Regardless of the truth, regardless of what the Bible teaches, regardless of what Jesus’ himself taught, for some reason, Christianity is viewed as something designed to restrain their happiness; and the church  as the great moralistic prison that people actually choose to enroll in.  And yet, nothing could be further from the truth.

Though the Bible has much to say about freedom, it is difficult to convince someone that they are in fact “enslaved”, especially those whose lives seem like they are going along splendidly.  What do I mean by slavery?  I mean that your life decisions, perspectives, and attitudes are GOVERNED, CONTROLLED by something.  You are in its service whether it be a person or a thing.  We all have ONE thing controlling us—it is your master.  Who is your master?  We all have one thing guiding our decisions, giving us meaning, one thing in which we set our hope, whether it is our money, our family, our happiness, a relationship, success in our job etc.  You are a slave to it because in it, just like a master, we find everything we need to put meaning into our lives.  One conversation with nearly anyone will reveal their thing fairly quickly. Who is your master? Romans 1 says it’s either creation or the creator.

In other words, I’m here to tell you that you that all non-Christians, and many Christians are not FREE.  I’m not saying that you’re NOT HAPPY—many people have learned to convince themselves that they are.  How would you even convince someone of that?  You’re not happy.  Yes I am.  No you’re not.  There are a lot of SLAVES that are happy because THEY DON’T KNOW ANY DIFFERENT!  They accept what they have because it is all they know and have ever known!  But it is not freedom we have through faith in Jesus Christ.  By grace, through faith, Christ sets us free so that we will actually live as if we are a people who believe it.  This is not better stated than in Galatians 5.1.

For Freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

I preached a sermon on Galatians 5.1 in the first year of our church plant.    Below is an excerpt from the back half of the sermon, reminding us of exactly what freedom in the gospel means.

CHRIST SET US FREE FROM LAW TO GRACE

You can stop working. You have been freed from unsuccessfully striving to achieve your own righteousness. You can stop striving to earn favor with God. You can stop working hard to have God accept you. You have freedom from the law that set a standard you could not meet. The most it could do, and quite effectively, was show how in need of a savior you are. There were many in the first century who saw the way of salvation as keeping the commandments of God. This was commonly urged among the Jews, and some of the first Christians seem to have taken up the idea from them. After all, it seems so obvious: if we lead good lives, we will be all right with God.

The problem is that the law is too high of a standard. It requires perfection. Christ did not die for the way of the law, he died so that we might live by faith. We are to accept, without deserving, believe without earning, the free gift of grace. We cannot put our justification in front of our sanctification. Meaning, our acceptability to God is not based on what we do, but only what we accept. Our sanctification is, in fact, based on our justification. Being a good person is about God completing his work within you and not you working hard to complete it yourself! Ephesians 2.8-9 says, For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is a gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one can boast. In other words, it is all about God. That is the greatest freedom there is. God does not expect me to jump and reach him knowing he is too high. He comes to me. He makes a way through Jesus and he gives me the faith to believe the foolishness of the story.

But you don’t hear that in a lot of churches. You might hear about the free gift of Jesus, but that is not what you really see! What you see is a bunch of people in a Christian club telling you to do XYZ so that you can be acceptable to God. Stop smoking. Stop drinking. Stop dressing like that. Stop using those words. Stop seeing those movies. Stop playing those games. Stop talking with those people. All you hear is LAW LAW LAW LAW. Where is the freedom of grace! Why do churches feel like they have the responsibility to change people when God hasn’t given them the power to do so! We are free from work…we need only believe. Acts 16.30-31 9 And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

CHRIST SET US FREE FROM SLAVERY to SIN

The Bible is quite clear, as is the world around is, left to themselves, people cannot defeat sin. And this is a fact of life of which the modern world affords ample proof. We may earnestly desire to do good, but evil is too powerful for us. We cannot do the good we wish to do. And, minus a few Dr. Evil’s here and there, we do wish to do good. But we can’t. It is not that we do the worst we possibly could, but we don’t know what is right. Our natural desires are in fact to do what that which is not God’s. The Bible describes us as men of flesh, natural men, even dead men who are controlled by the powers of this world. Our hearts and our minds are veiled. Our lives are governed by one of three things…all of them sin. 1John 2.16 16 For all that is in the world— xthe desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. Of course, if you don’t believe me, then just stop sinning.

That’s what you’ll hear in a lot churches. It will be something like, “well, stop sinning and Jesus will love you.” I’m here to tell you that you can’t. You can’t stop sinning. You are evil. You are selfish. You are a sinner. If you don’t know Jesus, you can’t stop sinning. Decide to believe Jesus and he’ll help you stop sinning. For those who do know him, you are free too. In Christ, you are new. You are transformed. That old self is dead and buried and now you are alive to live freely for God. Romans 8.1-2 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.1 2 For the law of hthe Spirit of life ihas set you2 free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. Deliverance is somewhat a negative concept, though a positive result is clearly implied.

Freedom is more than deliverance from something bad or evil. You now walk in the power of the Spirit and produce fruit like a tree reborn! You OBEY, not out of some sort of religious obligation, not out of penance because you feel bad for all the crap you did, you obey because you delight in the law of God in one’s inmost self. The person who is truly free no longer acts from constraint but serves his God willingly, with cheerfulness of heart. We are slaves to righteousness…governed by righteousness… Romans 6.18 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the pstandard of teaching to which you were committed, and, qhaving been set free from sin, rhave become slaves of righteousness.

CHRIST SET US FREE FROM THE APPROVAL OF MEN

Our world is all about the approval of men. We act, speak, even think in terms that are most innocuous, most tolerant. Will this offend? Will I hurt someone’s feelings here? I should probably do this because it’s what expected? There is personal image. I have to look a certain way in order to be accepted. I have to speak a certain way in order to be accepted. I have to get a certain level of education—it is hard to be approved in this world. It’s even harder in the church. My gosh, I can understand how people do not sense FREEDOM in anything we preach—it often looks like a bunch of prison guards keeping everyone one in line at the local jail! That is religion. Religion, as opposed to genuine faith, is built on the approval of men and the compare game. We live our lives governed not by thoughts and opinions of all the eyes that we know are watching us. We do not act ourselves for fear that people will think us less righteous or unholy. What does this look like? It looks like a church full of people who are more worried about ‘appearances’ than they are about being themselves. It’s a group of fake people who put on a beauty pageant every Sunday or any other Christian gathering, to prove who is more righteous.

There is no freedom in that. There is no freedom to be your true self. Because of your preoccupation with the approval of men, we do not say what we think, we do not express doubts, and we are in now way “REAL” with one another. As a result, we learn an entirely new culture, a church culture, where we create a “safe language” and “safe behaviors” where we can identify those who are in the club and those who are not. Forget what the Bible might say about all of this, we want people to think much of us because its all about looking good, clean, and healthy. Christ died so that we would find our value you in him. We are freed from having to impress anyone. We live for an audience and approval of one. If we believe in Jesus, we are fully approved. Not sort-of-approved, not conditionally approved, but approved and welcomed into the family. It is from God, not man, that we take our identity. Galatians 4.4-5 God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law (FREE), so that we might receive adoption as sons.

CHRIST SET US FREE FROM LIVING IN FEAR to LIVING IN JOY

“It was for FREEDOM, that God set us free.” We are to live a life of freedom. A life of liberty is not al life of licentiousness but it is also not life of self-imposed deprivation. A life of legalism saps life from you…unless you make really good legalisms! True liberty, is a life of freedom where “looking good” is not the primary influencer of thought and motivator of action. Being freed from a life governed by the slavery of moralism is not a life that is not moral. It is a lifestyle covered in the acceptance of God and led by the spirit of Christ versus one dominated by men’s approval and man-made tradition. It is a life that has a clear understanding of what sin is but also what righteousness is.

It becomes a life of joy because we do not fear missing the mark by perfectly obeying. We accept that fact that we cannot live a perfect life but Jesus did for us. We accept the fact that we have already missed the mark but Jesus has imputed his righteousness to us.  We do not fear that our salvation, and really God’s love for us, is predicated on our perfect obedience therefore we do not get prideful when we obey or despair when we fail to.

It becomes a life of joy because we do not fear rejection. Our father loves us and cannot lose us.

It becomes a life of joy because. We do not fear suffering. We recognize that suffering must have a larger purpose, that we often cannot understand. We see our savior suffering, without complaint, for something not deserved or his fault. He teaches us to see God’s hand even in suffering. We do not embrace suffering, but we do not avoid it.

It becomes a life of joy because we do not fear death or judgment. We see that Jesus overcame and conquered death. Therefore, death no longer has a sting for us. We know that with our death we are freed from this natural world to see Jesus. We also know that when we stand before God, he sees Jesus, just as he does this very moment!

It becomes a life of joy because we do not fear culture. We do not fear the world, in fact, we understand it. We understand what sin has done to the world and now approach it with gospel eyes. We do not flee from it, rather, we immerse ourselves in it and preach the gospel into all corners of it. We take back those things that have been perverted and through them glorify God!

We live a life of joy because Jesus has taken away all the fear. To be freed from fear is an amazing thing. Without Jesus, lives must be governed by fear. • Am I good enough? • Am I strong enough? • Am I acceptable? Do people like me? • I’m scared to hurt? Who is there? • What happens when I die? • How can I be safe in this world?  But we are free.