Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Lazy Man's Guide to Holiness

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, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. – Philippians 2:12-13

In the Bible there are things we ought to do -- as in practice, and there are things we ought to believe.  We may find ourselves confused and in difficulty if we only believe what needs to be practiced or try to practice that which we must rightfully trust God to do.  Jesus tells us that we should be holy even as our Father is holy.  We call this process sanctification and speak of being sanctified. 

The work of sanctification has two sides, what God must do and what man must do.  Some people will talk about being made holy as something instantaneous while others will speak of a long, slow, and sometimes painful process.  They are both right, just looking at different ends of the elephant.  In order to be delivered from the power of sin, a man must have faith and trust.  I have to believe that God will do in my life what He says He will do. 

My part – as uneasy as it may make some of us feel – is actually pretty easy.  I make a decision to offer myself completely without reservation to the Lord that He may do with me as He sees fit.  This is done in a moment and has nothing to do with feelings.  It’s called consecration, surrender, or abandonment of self.  It’s a once-for-all thing.  If you have ever done it, it is done.  If you haven’t and you do it now, it is done.  Afterward I don’t have to re-consecrate, I just have to remember.  And believe it. 

Now here’s the part where I, personally, have had all my problems.  Once I have done that, everything else that happens in my life is in God’s hands and according to His will.   And I am fine with that as long as everything goes along more or less the way I expect it to go.  However, when things start to get crazy, and everybody around appears to be going insane, obviously, that cannot be God.  But it is.  How do I know that?  Because I gave God control, and I am no longer running my life.  Satan has been deposed.  The world system is no longer controlling me.  Therefore it must be God. 

My part of sanctification is to offer myself to God to be made holy.  That is the instantaneous, one-and-done, positional side.  The long-term, painful working side of it is all God’s business.  He is the one who handles the process of sanctifying me and delivering me in the long run.   If I try to take that process back and “do” instead of trust, I will mess it up and probably lose a lot of ground. 

If someone who is having problems comes to us for help, we ought to ascertain their status with regard to consecration.  If, at some point, they have surrendered their lives to God’s will, we may confidently assure them that the Lord is in control and working to bring them full and complete salvation and deliverance.  We should encourage them to remember that truth, hang onto it, and trust – no matter what. 

See Job for details.

If they have not taken that step, we should encourage them to put their lives deliberately and willingly into the hands of the Father, from Whom, Jesus assures us, no power is able to snatch them (John 10:29). 

As I was saying a couple of posts back, I am not what I ought to be, but if I focus too much on my failures and try to right myself -- rather like bootstrapping, the only power on which I may call is the corrupted power of the flesh.  If I can believe God (and I should), that old man is not only corrupted, under Satan’s dominion, and totally untrustworthy, he’s dead, too.  My only option – and it should be my first choice because it is guaranteed by the Manufacturer to work – is to trust the Lord to fix what’s wrong.  This requires on my part only honesty and transparency before the Lord, and faith. 

Whatever my “utilitarian” purpose in this life maybe, I know that the Father’s will for me, first and last, is “to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29).   For that I have been predestined and foreknown; and therefore, to stay in Romans 8, I know … that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

No matter how ugly it gets, it’s getting us where we need to be. 


John Lien said...

This might be related. I was reading "Joey the Rat" this morning and he said:

But if this is so, then it also means that our relation to God ultimately cannot rest on or own planning, on a speculative knowledge, but demands the positivity of what confronts us, what comes to us as something positive, something to be received. ... The contingent, the external is what is necessary to man; only in the arrival of something from outside does he open up inwardly

Bring it on.

mushroom said...

I miss him already. I hope he writes some more now that he's retired -- or whatever he calls it.

To this extent, at least, Calvin's view has some validity, that man is incapable of pursuing God unless he hears the Voice calling. "Hey, you wanna come out and play?"