Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Process of Sanctification

Imagine walking into a room and seeing two ceramic pitchers. One is beautifully and gracefully made, perhaps trimmed with pure gold, and the other one is just a plain, everyday pot without even so much as a finishing glaze. Which one would catch your eye, drawing you closer for a better look?

The Apostle Paul used this metaphor in 1Corinthians 3:11-13 to explain how some Christians grow in the Lord. You have the ones that honor Him with their "gold and silver" lives of service, while others bring shame to the gospel through selfish and impure "earthenware" living. Scripture often uses the pitcher or vessel image because, as believers, we are to be "filled with," or controlled by, the Holy Spirit that Christ sent to inhabit and care for every believer. This Helper trains us in righteousness and strengthens us during times of suffering. (Eph 5:18) The Spirit's work begins on the inside where He adjusts and changes our thinking to line up with God's thinking that is revealed for us in Scripture. Since whatever we think eventually affects how we conduct ourselves, our outward behavior begins to conform to the sanctified perceptions the Holy Spirit is building into our spirit. Not only are we saved but we begin to act saved as well.

This isn't a matter of obeying church doctrine or laws and other "rules" (don't eat this! don't touch that!) which always remain an exterior response for us and is always created by our own human effort. No, this is about the change in our hearts that takes place within us when we receive the Holy Spirit. We begin to desire right behavior and, in time, we begin to align ourselves with the righteousness we were given by Christ. No longer do we brag about our "night out with the gang," drinking and carousing with loose conduct. No, now we are ashamed of any participation we may have had in such activity. Inside, we've been changed. Once saved, we are different on the inside and that difference affects how we live our lives on the outside. It is essential that we understand that this change in behavior and thinking comes about after we are saved. And this change doesn't take place overnight. It is what we mean by the process of sanctification. Slowly but surely the Spirit (who now lives inside the believer) begins to make adjustments in our wants and desires so that our conduct begins to reflect the image of Christ. And it's crucial we realize we aren't talking about human effort to change ourselves. We can be sure that any attempt we make to gain righteousness by own strength will be useless. Human effort will always fail. We're talking about the Spirit's work within us, deep down into our wants and needs, desires and thoughts. This process happens at varying speeds with various people. It begins immediately but takes a lifetime to complete.

Paul explains that as we cooperate with the Lord by removing dishonorable habits, actions, and attitudes that no longer fit the new creatures we have become in Christ, we become "vessels of honor," being used to further the works of His kingdom. As believers, we have a God-given responsibility in this sanctification process, to work with the Spirit to eliminate sin from our lives. Our heart's desire becomes one with the Lord's desire for our lives. Ugly and sinful activity becomes distasteful to us and we no longer want to run with that crowd. This is a big part of the sanctification process and our job, as believers, is to run from sin and confess and repent when necessary. We will never completely eradicate sin from our lives but when we are vigilant about fleeing from sin, then the Holy Spirit will work within us to mature and strengthen our faith, making us gold-trimmed vessels that pour out God's love upon the world of mankind. What kind of vessel are you? We all start out as earthenware pitchers but are then transformed into sacred, graceful vessels fit for the work of Christ's kingdom once we accept the righteousness that is by faith alone in the Lord Jesus and in what He has done.

And I thought my shoulder was bad yesterday!!! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! It is so much worse today! I will complain about it to my doctor tomorrow if it isn't better by tomorrow. I don't know what he can do about it. Maybe X-Ray it, but I think that would be a waste of time because I'm pretty sure it's muscular in origin. I'll probably just sweat it out. But, hey, I could have been hurt so much worse. I have to keep reminding myself of that fact to appreciate the lack of injuries I could have suffered. It's just hard to move my arm at all today. It's not my arm. It's my shoulder. From my elbow down is fine, it's just that shoulder joint that is freezing up on me. It doesn't want to be moved at all today.

Our weather has turned so beautiful the past few days or week. Our highs have been in the high 90s and the lows down in the lower 50s. So nice! Fall is making her way through to us and will be here in no time.

Michael had a T-Shirt made for his navy reunion. On the front is a picture of the destroyer he was on during the Korean War coming straight at you, and on the back is a picture of the destroyer going away from you. These are pictures he drew, of course. It's really neat and I've got it washing now. I'm sure it will be the rage at the reunion. Several of Michael's buddies can't make the reunion and he is rightfully disappointed that he won't get to see them. At their ages you just don't know how many will be left for the next reunion. Time is just relentless, ever trudging forward.

Well, I guess I'll go and see if I can get a few things done. With this bum shoulder I'm going to be pretty limited in what I can do but I'm sure I can find something. I may not get around to blogging tomorrow because of the doctor appointment I have. And then Friday we'll be going to WalMart so I'm not sure when I'll get back to post again. But I will be back. Take care and stay close to the Lord.

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