"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:


Adam said...

Wow, those were timely words. That was exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you for the words of encouragement Susan! Keeping an eternal perspective on things encompassing the hand of a Sovereign God is vital. I think many of us lose sight of who is really in control. You're right, we need to continually look to Jesus - the "Author" & "Perfecter" of our faith. Keep on pressing forward!

Grace & Peace,

Wm Mallory said...

I ditto Adam's comments. Excellent blog!

Keep up the Christ-Centered blogging. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting that song.

I'd like to recommend to you Jerry Bridges' book- Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts. He has a pastoral spirit and evidences a man who has been walking with the Lord.

God Bless.