Category Archives: Sanctification

Just Trying to Get By

When I read Scripture I see the passion of those who follow Christ. I see that their faith is crucial to their life. It is not the thing they need to “try” at, but the thing that gives them the strength to “try” at the rest of life. I see this same thing among many believers throughout history. This was one of the biggest things I noticed when I read through the Bonhoeffer biography I just finished, Bonhoeffer didn’t have to “try” to care about his faith. His faith is what enabled him to deal with everything else in life. You see this same thing in The Hiding Place. Corrie Ten Boom saw Christ and her relationship with him as the thing that would enable her to act bravely in love for those in need, and endure the incredible hardships that she faced as a result of those activities.

When you gather on an average Sunday in an average church you will most likely hear a sermon encouraging you to care about your faith. It may be a sermon telling you to read your Bible more, or asking you why you don’t get as excited about Jesus as you do about football or telling you that if you really love Jesus you will have a spirit of giving or a million other things that I would label in the category of “trying to get by.” What I mean by that is that Christians today spend so much time just trying to care about what they believe that the faith itself is what becomes the struggle, not the answer to the struggles of life. Is this because we are so comfortable? I’m sure that has a lot to do with it, but honestly I can’t say for sure why it is this way.

I am tired of constantly being encouraged to rededicate my life or recommit myself to following Christ. When we have to spend all our time trying to care about our supposed “beliefs” I wonder if we really believe them at all.

Of course we all struggle in many ways. I am no exception to that rule. I could even go so far as to say I personify that rule, but there is a fundamental difference between starting at your faith to help you overcome the struggles in your heart and life, and that faith being the very thing you struggle to care about.

What do you think? Am I overstating something that is nothing more than the normal struggle of Christians throughout history, or is there something very different about the way we approach our faith today, in the comforts of America, as opposed to those who have come before us, many of which faced severe persecution and struggled for their very survival?

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Real Theology: or what you really believe

We all have opinions about many different theological issues: eschatology, soteriology, ecclesiology, baptism, the sacraments, and so on, but what do those opinions amount to? Well, if they don’t affect the way that we exercise our Christian walk then I would say they don’t amount to much. I would actually go even farther to say that if our lives don’t reflect those stated beliefs then we may not really believe those things at all.

If we say that we believe God desires for us to care for those in need, yet we don’t do it then we have to ask, “do I really believe this?” If the answer to this is “yes, I do believe that God wants me to care for widows and orphans,” but I still don’t do it then maybe there is something else within my stated beliefs that I don’t really believe. Maybe I don’t believe that it is important to obey God because I don’t really believe that there is a greater reward for me than my material possessions that I have right now and am unwilling to give up.

I think that is where it really comes down. That is where I struggle in my daily decisions: I don’t always believe that following God is better than not following Him. Why else would I prefer not to obey if, as I say, I believe that His rewards are greater than the rewards of my sinful selfish actions. It is a simple process: I am presented with options, I weigh the outcome of each option, I decide which outcome I would prefer and make my choice. Now, if I really believe, as I state, that the rewards of obedience to God are the greatest possible rewards, then the choice would be simply a matter of asking which option glorifies God, is an act of obedience to God, or fulfills God’s desire for His followers. Sometimes that question is difficult, but many times it is easy, yet I still choose in opposition to it. At that point it is clear that I prefer the outcome of the option that is in opposition to my stated Theology, and at that point my Real Theology is made clear.

Stated beliefs are good as long as they reflect our true beliefs, and when our actions contradict our stated beliefs it may be worthwhile to ask ourselves what we truly believe, what our real Theology is.


Equipped

Longfellow Square - Corey Templeton, Portland Daily Photo

Longfellow Square - Corey Templeton, Portland Daily Photo

It has snowed a lot this winter. I had to grab some sand this morning from under the porch and was buried up to my knees when I stepped off the shoveled path. Hopefully, now that it is warming up, some of this stuff will start to melt. The thing about Maine is that we always get snow, every winter. Some winters aren’t as bad as others, but the cold hard reality is that it WILL snow every winter.

I remember living in North Carolina. They couldn’t deal with the snow. In the almost three years I was there it never snowed over a couple inches and it was always gone by midday, but even so, it would send people into panic mode and schools and businesses would shut down at the very thought of snow. Whenever a significant amount of snow does fall down that way it puts the whole state out of commission for days. Here, in Maine, we don’t even count it as snow unless it is over 6 inches and even the worst storms are cleaned up within 12 hours. We aren’t afraid of snow, we aren’t intimidated by snow, it’s just a part of living here.

So what is the difference? Like I said at the beginning, it always snows in Maine. It rarely snows in North Carolina. Mainers are prepared and equipped to deal with heavy snowfalls. North Carolinians are not equipped to deal with any snow. Every town, every grocery store, every strip mall has it’s own fleet of tractors, back hoes, dump trucks, or whatever other dinosaur vehicle they can get to plow snow. Every homeowner has a snow blower or a plow for their pickup. Every car is equipped with an ice scraper. Every porch has a shovel and a bucket of sand or salt sitting on it. Every Mainer has gloves and hats and boots and heavy jackets. We are prepared. We are equipped.

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
Eph 4:11-12 (NKJV)

I wonder when we look at the church, and the seemingly large gap between the Christianity demonstrated by the New Testament church and the Christianity demonstrated by the majority of American Christians, is maybe part of the problem that people are ill equipped? I think about discipleship and the idea of teaching others so that they can teach others to teach others, and how this should all trace back to Christ. Like Paul tells Timothy:

And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
2 Tim 2:2 (NKJV)

When I look at this I can’t help but wonder what would happen if someone broke the chain? What if you started teaching a new generation of Christians something different than what was passed down from the teachings of Christ and the Scriptures? Well, they may start teaching those things to the next group who would in turn teach those things to the next and so on down the line. If this has happened it would make sense that believers are not well equipped for the type of obedience and service as we see in the New Testament.

People need plows if they are going to plow.


Tough Questions

“Where did God come from?”

“If I have to love my enemies, does God love Satan?”

“Why did God let my goldfish die?”

“How does God get in our house when the door is locked?”

“If God talks to me, why don’t I hear Him?”

Over at Deconstructing Neverland, Bobby explains that his five-year-old asked “God says we should love our enemies, does God love Satan?

Our ability to answer these questions, and to do so in a way that is meaningful to our children, is important. It is important to them, but it is also important to us. If we can’t give them a meaningful answer we may need to ask ourselves if we have one. I know there have been several times that our kids have asked me or Stephanie something difficult and what I had to say to them not only left them looking at me in bewilderment, but left me asking myself, “with all that theological training, you don’t have a meaningful answer to that?”

The other benefit of these questions from our kids is that they make us stop and think about what we really believe. When an adult asks why God allows suffering, it may be easy to go into theological-mode and callously spout off some pre-cut answer. When our kids ask us those same questions we have to stop to, at least translate those pre-cut answers into simpler terminology or helpful metaphors, but maybe we go beyond that and say, “what do I really believe about this? and how do I express that to these curious little minds?”

You want to not only give your kids a clear answer, but you want to give them the true answer. They are your kids and you want to give them something meaningful when they ask difficult questions. It requires you to ask yourself if you have something meaningful to offer, and it requires you to ask if you live out that answer through your actions. Your kids will know if you don’t. They may even ask you why you don’t!

What are some of the tough questions that your kids have caught you off guard with?


Saved by Grace, Sanctified by Works?

As I mentioned in yesterday’s video my grandfather-in-law and I have many great conversations. Sometimes those are via email. I always look forward to his emails and our conversations. This particular email discussed his thoughts on the role of grace and works in salvation and sanctification. He talks about how salvation and sanctification are explained in Scripture, and how we sometimes distort that based on our teaching and practice. His thoughts on Sanctification struck a particular chord with me because it is something that I have been thinking about quite a bit lately. Here is what he said:

after the “born – again”, transformation takes place, the new person need not keep any rules of the church. Again, God provides the change, all we do is obey with the new ability God provides. Any change brought about by rule keeping or legalism only gives glory to man. Real, lasting change…loving God and others…always brings glory to God because these abilities are humanly impossible

I think we have a real strong tenancy to say, “yeah, God saves us by His grace, but after that we need to do x,y, and z to grow,” but, as Dave pointed out in his email, who gets the glory when we tell people they need to follow this set of rules to grow in their faith? Well, either that person for following the rules, or maybe us for setting up good rules to help them grow. So, we are willing to trust God for salvation and give Him alone the glory when someone’s eyes are opened to the truth of the Gospel, but we are sometimes unwilling to trust Him to complete that work in Sanctifying us and therefore take that glory which is only His away from Him. Probably not a great idea.

being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; – Phl 1:6 NKJV


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