I recently finished reading the chapter in Dug Down Deep on sanctification – the journey we travel with God as we are made more into his image. Joshua Harris, the author, asked the following question and also gave his answer: “Does God really change people? He absolutely does. God’s Word promises it. And the life of every true believer proves it.”
And this caused me to think: how am I becoming more holy? What is God changing in me? When I was a child my mother hand a sign that hung on the refrigerator which read, “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to prove it?”
I have to say that one of the things I enjoy most in life is watching people grow and change – perhaps it’s why I became a teacher. To see a person learn to do something new is a wonderful thing. But what is truly miraculous is watching someone change a bad behavior pattern and replace it with a healthy one. And that’s kind of what sanctification is all about – leaving behind the “flesh” (as Paul calls it) and replacing it with Jesus. Jesus didn’t just come to save me, but to transform me.
One of my favorite books is entitled The Life You’ve Always Wanted by John Ortberg. Read what he has to say about spiritual growth:
“We are pregnant with possibilities of spiritual growth and moral beauty so great that they cannot be adequately described as anything less than the formation of Christ in our very lives…every moment of my life is an opportunity to learn from God how to live like Jesus…
“I suspect that if someone had asked the apostle Paul or the apostle John about his spiritual life, his first question would have been, ‘Am I growing in love for God and people?’ Practices such as the reading of Scripture and praying are important – not because they prove how spiritual we are – but because God can use them to lead us into life. We are called to do nothing less than to experience day by day what Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus: ‘But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love which he loved us even when we were death through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.’”
I absolutely love the image of being “pregnant” with the possibility of “spiritual growth and moral beauty,” don’t you? Too often I see the sin in my life or the problems in my life that keep me from getting where I want to go, yet this phrase reminds me to always look towards the future. What is the picture of “spiritual growth and moral beauty” that I am “pregnant” with? It’s Jesus!
In a recent class I taught I told my students that my favorite phrase is, “The best is yet to come.” And it’s true not only for eternity, but for this life as well. Tomorrow I need to be more like Jesus than I am today, and the next day more than tomorrow, and so on… Too often we make the Christian life out to be a list of rules and regulations – a bunch of do’s and don’ts – but what’s really important is asking, “How can I be more like Jesus?”
Many times when I’m talking with someone and they struggle with discerning the will of God I ask them this question: Which of your choices, once chosen, will most make you like Jesus? Once you know the answer to that question you’ll know what God’s will is. God’s will is for us to be like his Son – to be transformed into the image of Jesus for others to see. We are saved from Hell, but we are also saved for Heaven. We are saved from sin, but we are also saved for good works. All of this falls under sanctification and that whole “working out your salvation” thing that Paul writes about (see Phil 2).
I’m going to close with another quote from Joshua Harris.
“God’s saving work through Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection has practical, real-world implications for our lives. It is truth that can’t be kept on a page or in a house of worship. It follows us home. To our school. To our work. To our bedrooms. It grabs hold of every detail of our lives. Our thoughts. Our sexuality. Our money. Our leisure. Our relationships. Our desires. Our dreams.”
This begs the question: How does the saving work of Jesus spill over into “practical, real-world implications” in my life? Over the next couple of weeks I hope to explore this thought process with you and, hopefully, offer some suggestions not only for us individually but also collectively as a choir.