Friday, September 6, 2013

It's the weekend and I'm filling my moat with water and alligators. And other thoughts on sanctification

One of the kindergarten teachers plays a welcome song every morning and on Fridays it is the Friday Song with the refrain of "It's Friday! It's Friday! We love it!" The kids dance. It's really cute.

I do believe there is nothing like the feeling of driving home on Friday after a ___________ workweek. Insert your own descriptor.

1. a stressful work week
2. a fruitful work week
3. a productive work week
4. a tiring work week.
5. A dull work week.

This week I choose work week descriptor... #1 and #2!

When I get home on Fridays I put the car in the garage. It's my signal of the boundaries between home and work being set. If I had a moat, at this time I'd be filling it with water and alligators.

I gather my things from the back seat of the car and go in. This is a momentous occasion. Crossing the threshold of my home
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from the outside on a Friday night is a tremendous feeling of relief and release. As I step inside, there actually should be a mariachi band playing.

I close the door and lock it. The 'tick' the lock makes cements the feeling that I have now separated from the world.

I'm IN!!

I make sure to have cleaned up the apartment Thursday evening or Friday morning so that when I come in the place looks orderly and nothing stands out as needing attention or to be done. I close the windows, fire up the AC, and unpack. I change into comfy clothes, currently a stretched white Hanes tee shirt and very soft blue stretch pants. The world is now dead to me.

I fire up the laptop and pour a chilled green tea, warm up piece of pita bread to enjoy dipped in hummus.

Weekend has begun.

The above was what I posted tonight on my secular blog. But the work week also presented some opportunities to be a good witness for Christ- or not. In this one short work-week, we had a death, a funeral, training for a new task we'll be performing, a job loss in our ever-shrinking staff numbers, and an influx of visitors to our Grandparents Breakfast. Phew.

When these things happen, they cause emotions to run at high gear, everyone has an opinion, it's 90+ degrees out, and I haven't even added to these the stresses people are feeling in their home lives.

Phew again.

A natural inclination for people, especially me, is to talk and talk and gossip and gossip and to have an opinion about what's happening. I say this is 'natural' because events affect us and we have feelings about them. And again it is natural to talk and hash it all over because the flesh wants to do what is wrong and not what is right.

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. (Galatians 5:19-21)

At a time when emotions are running high, it's tempting to want to weigh in, especially if the topics are what everyone is talking about. But this is the exact time to stop and take to heart the warnings so often given:

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:22-24)

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
(Proverbs 18:21)

Was I a poor witness and stirred up strife and anger with my tongue? Was I a good witness and was calm and gentle and a help to people in building them up? I don't know the answer to that fully. The Lord knows.

I know I failed in some areas this week. Did I do better this week than last week? Probably. Did I do better than I would have done last year? Definitely.

And that is sanctification. Day by day I feel the struggle, the ups and downs and victories in Christ and sins of the flesh. But the long term back-look is good. Sanctification may be slow, it may not be visible day by day, but it's there. If you look back across your life over the year, years, decades, you should definitely see growth. CARM.org puts it this way:
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photopin cc

"Sanctification is the process of being set apart for God's work and being conformed to the image of Christ. This conforming to Christ involves the work of the person, but it is still God working in the believer to produce more of a godly character and life in the person who has already been justified (Phil. 2:13). Sanctification is not instantaneous because it is not the work of God alone. The justified person is actively involved in submitting to God's will, resisting sin, seeking holiness, and working to be more godly (Gal. 5:22-23). Significantly, sanctification has no bearing on justification. That is, even if we don't live a perfect life, we are still justified.

Where justification is a legal declaration that is instantaneous, sanctification is a process. Where justification comes from outside of us, from God, sanctification comes from God within us by the work of the Holy Spirit in accordance with the Bible. In other words, we contribute to sanctification through our efforts. In contrast, we do not contribute to our justification through our efforts."

It's a process. As with any process, there are bumps and progress, hesitations, fallbacks, and strides.

"Sanctification isn’t easy—it takes faithfulness, hard work, and self-discipline. And even then, it’s not purely a function of your will, but the work of the Holy Spirit in you. It’s not manufactured overnight. I can tell you that faithful Bible study, prayer, and self-discipline play a vital role in your sanctification. As we’ve seen over the last several weeks, we can’t manufacture spiritual growth on our own, but we can certainly hinder it through unchecked sin and spiritual laziness."

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It is impossible to detect how much of our growth is God (likely MOST) and how much we of what we do contributes to it, but the point is, growth is a must for the Christian. Picture the pencil lines on a doorway of measuring a child's height over his lifetime. They should be going up.

So I'm sitting here at the end of a workweek behind my moat with floating alligators, privately assessing my behavior during the week. How did I do? Well, my goal this week was to honor Christ in all I said and did, and to be a model to the younger employees. Of course I failed. Of course I repented. Of course He forgave me. Of course I try again. Of course it is He who enables me to grow. This is all normal. I'm glad I'm a normal Christian and not a radical Christian.

The only problem comes if, when looking back over weeks of years, I don't see growth. If there is no growth and no fruit, then I am not being sanctified. That could mean two things. One is that it could mean I'm justified but lazy:

"I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked." (Revelation 3:15-17)

Gill's Exposition: I know thy works ... Which were far from being perfect, and not so good as those of the former church: that thou art neither cold nor hot; she was not "cold", or without spiritual life, at least in many of her members, as all men by nature are, and carnal professors be; she was alive, but not lively: nor was she wholly without spiritual affections and love; to God, and Christ, to his people, ways, truths, and ordinances; she had love, but the fervency of it was abated. ... so uses this phrase [lukewarm] to show his detestation of lukewarmness, and that it is better to be ignorant, and not a professor of religion, than to be a vain and carnal one; Christ desires not simply that she might be cold, but that she might be sensible of her need of spiritual heat and fervency."

Or a lack of growth could mean that I'm not justified at all.

"I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God." (Revelation 3:1b-2).

Gill's exposition again: "but art dead"; for, the most part, or greater part of the members of these churches, are dead in trespasses and sins; and as for the rest, they are very dead and lifeless in their frames, in the exercise of grace, and in the discharge of duties; and under great spiritual declensions and decays

Did I exercise His grace this week? I think so. All in all it was a good week, despite my failings and despite my successes, because ultimately God brings glory to Himself no matter what I do. He grows me in His likeness, despite my own fleshly, stumbling self. And next week is another week to do it all over again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Further reading:

Counterfeit Sanctification

How do you measure up?

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