sanctification by grace

i believe in the sufficiency of grace.
whether or not i am living that out is always a challenge.

we find salvation by grace, but where i have fallen short is the sanctification of self that follows in response.

like salvation, sanctification can only come by grace.

i've spent much of my life believing in Christ, asking for his great help for my salvation, believing i am redeemed in his mercy, and then attempting to pull myself up by my bootstraps so that i might walk with the Lord, as if i could put together all my broken pieces on my own.

my logic here is that i want to be worthy of God's grace, although that is never something i could acheive on my own. yet because of my pride, i often try to make myself presentable before the Lord without his help in a way to prove my worth. but that in and of itself is contradictory to the sufficiency of grace.

i first sought Christ because i recognized i was powerless to save myself. that i needed help to deal with my deeply rooted sin. and in the beauty of his provision, i praise him that i am saved. but after that, i still operate under the assumption that my spiritual growth towards maturity still wholly depends on me.

but the truth is that i am no better at sanctifying myself as i am at saving myself. so if i am in Christ, if i am now truely "holy and blameless" as Ephesians 1:4 would indicate, why am i still trying to 'make myself holy' by depending on myself?

Tom L. Eisenman writes, "The beginning of holiness does not lie first in our determined effort to clean up our lives. The road to holiness always begins with submission to God as the prime mover in the sanctifying process. Our highest priority is our relationship with Christ."

to what avail then could i ever present myself worthy to the Lord? to whom am i trying to prove i've got it all together, and that i don't foremost need the Lord's help? since when did following the commandments of the Lord imply one must first be holy and righteous on their own before they can follow in the way of God? this has never been true. all are broken before they ever receive the Lord, and will continue to be. grace may not be an immediate fix to the sin-problem. but it is sufficient.

the truth is that as a christian, i am broken. 1 John 1:8 says, "if we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." the christian life carries the expectation of lingering sin. like an injury you can't walk off.

but Eisenman notes: "the interesting thing about God's healing [is that] when he heals, he leaves the broken thing in place. Instead of fixing the broken thing, he brings his power through the Holy Spirit to overpower the brokenness..."

Romans 6:6 notes that with Christ our old self was crucified so that sin would be katargete, rendered powerless. it no longer has the power to control our lives. we gain new eyes to see it for what it is, and by the grace of God it has no control. Eisenman describes it in this way:

"God does not remove the boulders from the rapids of life; 
he raises the level of the water."

God is not the cleaning lady here to throw out all our junk, and clean house for us so that we are suddenly spotless and clean. no, God instead visits us and fills us, and by him the level of water raises, and all those boulders and those burdens have no affect on our lives anymore. they are rendered powerless to change us, and we are free to live our lives as his will originally intended.

as a christian, have i lived a life free from all my burdens? have i trusted everything to the Lord? the answer is no. in fact, often times following God becomes my burden! but the source of my anguish is not the Lord's commandments, rather the posture of my heart in following them. i wholly desire what 1 John 5 indicates for the christian life. that the commandments of the Lord would not be burdensome and that my life could rise above its boulders. but for that to be true, i need to return again to the sufficiency of grace. 

relevant to this discussion, C. S. Lewis compares a life of overcoming temptations to be like a child constantly falling down on a road traveling home. He writes,

"No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be v. muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one's temper and give up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us; it is the v. sign of his presence."

he first asserts that the more we fall, and as the journey seems long, and everything gets difficult, and we keep on falling, our largest temptations involve giving up. this is an example of what it is like to seek after the Lord. but if we cannot accept that both salvation and sanctification are products of grace, the journey on which we fall and have to pick ourselves back up will not lead to righteousness but frustration. to the guilt of not being able to achieve a self-setermined level of unreal perfection.

what i love in his analogy though, is that the very dirt we recognize to be covering us when we fall is the very proof that God is in us. our sensitivity to sin is a gift of God's spirit, and a sign of our salvation. without an inner struggle, we would truely still be lost.

my resolve: 

2 Peter 3:18 is a command. i need to return to the joy i've known to be found in submission to Jesus Christ. therein lies true freedom from my frustrations, and the ability to let the Lord deal with my brokenness without any walls, without having to do it all on my own. to let him raise the level of the water, that the waters may be peaceful and calm again. that is sanctification by grace. that is the will of God. who are any of us to stand in the way?

Christ died so that we might live. 

Christ died so that when i fall, i can pick myself up again. 

again i ask who are any of us to stand in the way of the Lord? when Peter challenged Jesus that he should not have to die in Matthew 16, Christ's reply was simple: "Get behind me satan." who are we to stand in the way of the Lord? who are any of us to deny God the rightful ability to share with us his grace.

The Lord is good. 

1 comment:

chet said...

this was excellent Danny. you have a way with grouping thoughts and putting them into words. very nice. we spoke of grace at my church sunday. perhaps God is moving people toward an understanding of his amazing and sufficient grace right here.

thanks for this.