"Oh to Grace how great a debtor
daily I'm constrained to be.
Let thy goodness, like a fetter
bind my wandering heart to Thee!"

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sanctification at all costs?

Lately, I have found myself talking about the idea of being "sanctified at all costs." It is a phrase that I throw out there to try and describe and take hold of the intense anguish that sanctification brings our way sometimes. I mean, if you truly belong to the Lord, and you are His, well, then you are promised to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ via....sanctification. We are promised that. Wow, what a privilege. And I don't think that either one of us can truly grasp that concept...I mean TRULY grasp the concept that we are gradually being conformed to the IMAGE OF CHRIST. That is so drastic. It is the reason that the Lord must use such drastic measures to get us to that point. Sometimes it is subtle and sweet and sometimes it's DEFINITELY not. And sometimes the Lord will use those things that are closest to our hearts to wake us up and make us realize that we are in this life of ours for ONE SOLE REASON: TO GLORIFY THE NAME OF THE LORD. TO LIFT UP HIS NAME IN ALL THAT WE DO, SAY, THINK, BREATH, EAT, DRINK, EVERYTHING! So enduring sanctification is a lot easier-despite the cost-when you put it all into perspective like that.

But then I got to thinking. Sanctification at all costs? Maybe I am looking at this all wrong. I mean, if the price of sanctification is compared to the reward that is on the other side...can I even call it a cost at all? I'm beginning to think that I might need to change my phrase. Even in my marketing class I learned that the value of something is equal to the price divided by its benefits. The benefits of the heavenly reward outweigh the price we pay on this earth so much that I don't even think it can be said that there is a cost involved. So then I found some verses in Hebrews from a Piper sermon that I really think drives it home that the eternal reward that is awaiting us is a free gift that I gladly will endure all things on this earth to inherit. And not only endure them...but realize that it cannot even be compared to the glory that is on the other side. Of course, the reward should not be my main focus-that should be on bringing glory to the all-encompassing name of my Heavenly Father-but the reward is real and it should no doubt encourage us in our earthly affairs. It definitely was one of the driving forces behind the courage of the saints that came before us....take a look at some of these verses regarding this subject:

Hebrews 10:32-35

But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great fight with afflictions; Partly, while you were made a public display both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, while you became companions of them that were so used. For you had compassion on me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that you have in heaven a better and an enduring possession. Cast not away therefore your confidence, which has great recompense of reward.

Hebrews 11:6
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Hebrews 11:24
By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a time; Esteeming the reproach of the Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he looked for the recompense of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.

Hebrews 11:35-40
Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

Hebrews 12:2
Looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 13:12
Therefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate.

So in these verses we see the theme of both suffering and enduring affliction but doing it all [with joy] to inherit an incorruptible reward. You see, no amount of earthly affairs, no matter how tragic or how disastrous they are, can separate you from the promise of God to grant you the ultimate reward: to live forever IN Christ- no longer separated from your Creator by your sins. Wow, I mean can you really imagine this?? I thank God for the moments, and sometimes the milliseconds that he gives me the eyes to see just how glorious this will be! Those milliseconds are enough to keep me going for the rest of my life here on earth!!

So if we take God at His word, which thankfully we can do because He is faithful and never changes, then we can take comfort in the fact that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). I mean think about what that verse TRULY means. It means that if you belong to the Lord then NOTHING that happens to you is outside of God's will which is nothing but for your own good. Now, lets stop right there and define the word good in this context. It doesn't mean earthly good like many would try to twist and make it out to be. It means good in the TRUEST sense...which is good in the eternal perspective. It means that NOTHING happens to you that isn't used to bring you closer to God. Nothing happens that does not work towards the ultimate goal of conforming you to the image of Christ.

If you really get a hold of the sovereignty of God and you believe that HE is the one who is indeed in control of all things (like the Bible tells us He is) then you can rest assure that what you go through on this earth is not hopeless and purposeless. Go back to the verses posted above. Does it look like that God's people went through those sufferings with no purpose or redeeming outcome in mind? No. It's the opposite. They endured their affliction KNOWING that they had something better in store, and that it was all just part of their sanctification that would bring them to their Savior, Jesus Christ. And we can even look at Jesus' life and see the same thing. He endured the afflictions knowing that He would also be seated at the right hand of God AND ALSO knowing that He was doing the will of His Father so that ALL THOSE BELIEVING on Him would be sanctified through His blood and be brought unto Him for all eternity. What a self-less sacrifice. And let's take a look at what the Lord continues to say after Romans 8:28 in verse 29 and 30: For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

Sounds like a promise to me. There isn't any room for doubt in those verses. What God says He will do, it is a promise set it stone never to be gone back on. He has predestined His followers before the foundation of the world to be conformed to the image of His Son and to be justified in His eyes and to be glorified. AMEN. And you can be sure that no earthly circumstance can separate you from that promise, if you are indeed His (which is what Paul goes on to describe in verses 31-39). All this being said, I am not downplaying the hurt and pain that we no doubt experience in this world. It is not something to be taken lightly BY ANY MEANS. It is our duty to be comforters to those who are in need and who are experiencing great anguish due to circumstances of this world. But we are to do so with the hope and the promise that has been given us. And when it comes to our own lives we are to approach our sanctification with the same confidence-that is mindful of the greater reward-that Moses had and that every other saint (of whom the world was not worthy of) had. O that that very phrase could be said about me! It would be only by the grace of God. For it is Him who wills and works in me to transform me and my mind so that I think in this heavenly perspective that this world does not even recognize.

So is it really sanctification at all costs? Yes, sometimes it may feel that way, but I think I am going to start rewording that. It is my privilege and honor to endure sanctification that will lead me to the greatest gift that anyone could ever imagine. It is sanctification at no cost at all....it is sanctification with only a reward.
When you look at it in this perspective, you will lose focus on all the earthly things you feel you are missing out on, and instead you will be motivated by the incorruptible crown that is incomparable with anything in this life. It seems simple, but I believe it is a misconception that our natural, fleshly mind still wants to lean towards. Like "look at everything I am giving up for the Lord." NO...it should be "look at all the things He is GIVING me that I don't deserve!" And even with that, though the Lord gives and takes away, you can tell by those verses that He does so because of His lovingkindness to lead us into greater fellowship with Him. He does so that we may keep the heavenly reward in priority at all times. What an awesome God.

My prayer is that this will not just be words on a page for me, or for any of my brothers and sisters. I pray that the doctrine of sanctification and what all it encompasses and what purpose it serves will not just be head knowledge, but instead that it will invade every aspect of our lives. This is a way of thinking that I pray never leaves us, just like it never left the saints of the Bible when they faced the most difficult of decisions and circumstances. It is my prayer that next time you are faced with a circumstance or a choice that forces you to endure a denial of yourself and your creature comforts, that you will keep in mind that you are doing it so that you may obtain a better resurrection and because you are knowing in yourselves that you have in heaven a better and an enduring possession looking for the recompense of the reward. If it helps you, then remember that it isn't sanctification at all costs, but instead, by God's grace, it is sanctification for a reward.

Here is a great song that goes along perfectly with this topic:

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Psalm 4- Encouragement, Endurance, Patience- James White

I've been very blessed to get to know Dr. James White of Alpha Omega Ministries a little bit over in his chat channel (#prosapologian) for the past 3 months or so. I cannot even put into words my appreciation for his defense of the entire gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The stand that he takes despite the consequences in a post-modern world is beyond encouraging to me. When he made these two videos yesterday, well, my jaw nearly hit the ground. The timing of these videos was impeccable. To say that I can personally relate to what he says here is the understatement of the year, and I could go on and on about it, but I won't because they pretty much speak for themselves. So to my brothers and sisters out there that feel the Lord tugging (and more than likely RIPPING) you away from a world that is telling you to keep busy and to stay carnal in all that you do and say...to the ones out there that want to fight it, but are facing deep difficulties...be encouraged and take heed to this message and remember this verse:

"But I know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the Lord will hear when I call unto him."

*Psalm 4 was the Psalm that the Lord showed me early on last year...and continued to bring me back to throughout all my struggles this past year. It was incredible. Then to hear Doc use it in the video blew me away. When I found myself, night after night, desiring so badly to just sit upon my bed and examine my heart in the presence of Almighty God, I began to be discouraged because, turns out, most people (including professing Christians) think that is crazy...or at least crazy to do it more than once a month or once a year or so. But no, God was calling me to do this night after night until my soul was resting in Him and Him alone. Oh what a process! Oh what a work the Lord was doing in my life and continues to build on today....a work that would have been impossible if I would have gotten distracted or found something else to do with that time! Then one night when I had withdrawn to the coffee shop that I go to in order to get away and get into God's word...there it was....there was the verse that God showed me for the first time (I probably had read it before, but didn't ever take it in):

"Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still." Psalm 4:4

Wow, considering that was word for word describing the state that I was finding myself in- literally upon my bed- BLEW ME AWAY. And from that night on it became the verse, and the entire chapter really, that the Lord would bring me back to whenever I got discouraged, or whenever I found myself wanting to do God's will but was finding huge amounts of struggle against it, either from within my own heart, or from the people and influences around me.

I know that James is known for his tough, apologetic, no-nonsense stance....but this is a great example that just because you are out there taking what the world calls a "judgmental" stand on objective truth doesn't mean that you are tough and unloving. No, in fact it is the opposite. It just means that you care enough about people to tell them the truth in love and don't waver on God's word. I don't expect the world to recognize this true love though, because it is not of the world. If it wasn't for the moments and hours and days and even years like James describes in the video, there is no way one can even have the strength and courage to stand up for Christ and His truth in a world that will toss you to the waste-side for doing so. That strength can only come from the grace of God. But I know that if it wasn't for those times of God bringing me through the valley I would not be where I am today. You really do learn to, not necessarily look forward to those times, but you definitely realize that those times reap a spiritual growth that cannot even be described, so you really do look forward to the fruits that come as a result of the intense struggle.

Most Christians can relate to the feelings that James talks about. But most won't admit it. I know that until about a year ago I didn't admit it. In fact I spent most of my time fighting these types of feelings because it is what the world told me to do. But I noticed that when you start being open about this stuff and start to actually be guided by the Holy Spirit and not the world and you share what the Lord is REALLY doing in your life...well, people start to treat you different. And not usually in a good way. But hey, God tells us ahead of time about this, so we shouldn't be surprised...in fact we should rejoice. After all, you realize who your true brothers and sisters in Christ are. I know I did. And I wouldn't trade it for anything. So if you feel the Lord calling you out from among them and drawing you unto Himself...please please please don't fight it. Set your affections on the things above and commune with your own heart alone with the Lord. And be encouraged by these moments of being stripped of all earthly comforts...it is just the Lord getting you to trust solely in Him. I pray that the Lord will continue to draw His children in so that we may grow in holiness and be sanctified and conformed to the image of His son. Amen.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Truth War...

I thank Ingrid Schlueter from sliceoflaodicea.com for posting this quote from C.H. Spurgeon. I saw it and had to post it as well:

“The Church of Christ is continually represented under the figure of an army; yet its Captain is the Prince of Peace; its object is the establishment of peace, and its soldiers are men of a peaceful disposition. The spirit of war is at the extremely opposite point to the spirit of the gospel. Yet nevertheless, the church on earth has, and until the second advent must be, the church militant, the church armed, the church warring, the church conquering. And how is this? It is the very order of things that so it must be. Truth could not be truth in this world if it were not a warring thing, and we should at once suspect that it were not true if error were friends with it. The spotless purity of truth must always be at war with the blackness of heresy and lies.”

–Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Let Us Not Fear Men...

An Entry from Charles Spurgeon's Check Book of Faith:

MAY 10

"So that we may boldly say, The Lord is
my helper, and I will not fear what man
shall do unto me."
Hebrews 13:6.

"Because God will never leave nor forsake us
we may well be content with
such things as we have. Since the Lord
is ours, we cannot be left without a friend,
a treasure, and a dwelling-place. This
assurance may make us feel quite independent of
men. Under such high patronage we do not
feel tempted to cringe before our fellowmen,
and ask of them permission to call our lives
our own ; but what we say we boldly say, and
defy contradiction.

He who fears God has nothing else to fear.
We should stand in such awe of the living
Lord that all the threats that can be used by
the proudest persecutor should have no more
effect upon us than the whistling of the wind.
Man in these days cannot do so much against
us as he could when the apostle wrote the
verse at the head of this page. Racks and
stakes are out of fashion. Giant Pope cannot
burn the pilgrims now. If the followers of
false teachers try mockery and scorn, we do
not wonder at it, for the men of this world
cannot love the heavenly seed. What then?
We must bear the world s scorn. It breaks
no bones. God helping us, let us be bold, and
when the world rages let it rage, but let us
not fear it."

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Wretched, and Miserable, and Poor, and Blind, and Naked....

2 Corinthians 7:9-11

Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that you sorrowed to repentance: for you were made sorry after a godly manner, that you might suffer loss by us in nothing. For godly sorrow works repentance to salvation not to be regretted: but the sorrow of the world works death. For behold this same thing, that you sorrowed after a godly sort, what earnestness it worked in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what full punishment! In all things you have proved yourselves to be pure in this matter.

Sorrow of this world works death. I need those words to sink in with me right now. The Lord is in the middle of stretching me right now this very second...words cannot even describe it. Though what a blessing it is to be under affliction and endure it for our Lord Jesus Christ. I feel like I have a few things being thrown at me all at once right now that are trying to throw me so off track and get me so focused on worldly sorrow that I lose sight of what really matters in this life: and that is to live to glorify the Lord in all that I do and say and think. Wow. Brothers and sisters, just know that when you possess the truth you are GOING TO SUFFER because of it. It is a promise. And here is something amazing that I have learned recently, and talking with one of my friends last week confirmed it for me....when the Bible says that those who are the Lord's WILL SUFFER for His sake, it is not just referring to the times when you are treated badly for sharing Christ. Yes that is a huge part of the suffering, but it also includes the trials and sufferings that come up in your life that force you to deny yourself and all the fleshly, carnal things that come natural to you. Take that in. That means that whenever you find yourself crying out to the Lord for Him to show mercy on you during a time of intense affliction, you are enduring suffering for His sake. It is not just when someone throws a rock at you for sharing the gospel. This is a huge encouragement to me. This means that all the times that I am face down on my bedroom floor agonizing over the circumstances in my life and presenting the burden of my sin to the Lord and it causes great anguish amongst the deepest parts of me because I long to see righteousness take its root in me....that is suffering. It is the Lord's promise to me that this will take place in my life, therefore I should rejoice when it happens? Haha, man don't you wish it was that easy. No suffering is easy at the time. In fact I am finding myself in the midst of it right now this very second and it is only by the grace of God (as it always is) that I am even typing out these words right now. Because honestly about 15 minutes ago I was begging the Lord to show me Himself so I could see Him and His will through all the worldly, sinful MUCK and MIRE that was plaguing my life and my view of things. And I debated writing a post or just going to sleep, but the Lord led me to this keyboard, so here I am. I am not writing this tonight to in any way, shape or form act like I have this all together. I am simply passing on what the Lord is teaching me this very second. And in return, just knowing that the Lord has brought me back to enough sanity and emotional stability to write these words is so encouraging. You have no idea.

Look, the truth is I have NO IDEA what the Lord is up to right now when it comes to circumstances in my life. But I do know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. The Lord is always so gracious to use my times of uncertainty and freaking out as times to stretch and grow me beyond anything my little finite mind can fathom. He has been faithful to me up to this point; I have a whole testimony to show for it. So why in the world would this be any different? Great goodness, it isn't....I just pray that I take in my own words and hear the scriptures on this and not what my emotions are screaming. The Lord desires us to be meek and lowly and to be poor in spirit, and most of the time the way He accomplishes that is by humbling you down to the ground (quite literally sometimes) so that you come up broken and contrite and in a million different pieces so HE can reconstruct you into the child He has called you to be. HE is the one equipping me for this Christian life in which I fall unimaginably short of qualifying for, so of course I trust that He knows the means in which that must come about.

But I am learning what a blessing it is when the Lord brings these moments when everything I am putting my trust in on this earth is stripped away from me (not literally, but comfort-wise in my heart) and I am left feeling wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind <---not just feeling that way but actually realizing that without the Lord I am that way. The feeling is awful, and I don't wish it on anyone, but the weeping only lasts for the night because His joy DEFINITELY follows it up in the morning. And how can it not? To be emptied out and stripped of dependence on carnal affections means that the Lord is about to abundantly fill you up with what is good and pure and holy and of Him! I know I shared this before in a previous post, but one thing I have learned from reading The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs is that when you find yourself discontent with your worldly circumstances, then a way to take care of that is to remind yourself of the great burden of sin you have before a holy, perfect righteous God. Boy does that work- it quickly puts things back into perspective and within seconds turns all that worldly sorrow into a godly sorrow that works repentance, the sweetest gift that God can give us. I love it when I get to put my theology into action :).

Right now, I confess that the road up ahead of me seems long, and dark, and lonely and well...impossible. That is why the Lord tells us to take no thought for tomorrow for sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. So true. I also know that the Lord loves taking what seems impossible to me and bringing it to pass in such a way that leaves me in awe of His glory, so in that lies my hope. Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, so my faith is not in vain...and I take hope in the promise of the things unseen. Praise God for that.

So Lord Jesus if this is the way in which you have willed for me to be drawn in closer to You, then I count it but a privilege to endure such afflictions. I pray that you will bring comfort to me during this time, though, so that I may know for certainty the path in which you are leading me. Comfort me in a way that no worldly possession or promise can comfort me, and help me to long after the true peace that is found in you, instead of settling for the fake peace that is offered by the world that leaves only emptiness. Help me to be guided by Your Spirit so that I do not grieve You, and please rid me of any worldly sorrow that is blinding me and keeping me in bondage to the carnal affections. I pray for all my brothers and sisters out there that are experiencing similar afflictions. Please comfort your people during their times of uncertainty and open up their eyes to your will so that they may take great pleasure in it. Thank you for your Grace, Father, for without it I would not last a second in this world. It is amazing how you can bring me from a feeling of despair to hope in just a twinkling of an eye, and thank you for your precious word: I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for you, LORD, only make me dwell in safety. (Psalms 4:8 )

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

On the Road Again...

I have been traveling for the past week...and I will be on the road for the next two weeks as well, so I have not been able to blog like I've wanted to. But I am enjoying being able to visit with a bunch of my old friends. I was back in Clemson this past weekend for one of my friend's wedding (Clemson is where I transferred from last year) and I was so encouraged to meet up with the people that I was close with there and see what all the Lord was doing in their lives. Wow. In fact, going back to Clemson was kind of monumental for me; Lord willing I will write about it at a later date. For now, I wanted to at least post a little something to keep the refreshing Word of God alive and well on the blog. After all: It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4).

Here's some of the video clips of Paul Washer at their Reality Check Conference a couple months ago. I know I post a lot of Washer on here, but I am just so encouraged by all of his messages. Until I get a chance to blog again...God bless you all!