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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
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[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
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- Carla Rolfe
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Sanctification 101 and 2 Peter 1
 Let's start this post with the text mentioned in the title - and do yourself a favor: read it even if you are already familiar with the text - nothing I write that follows it will be anywhere near as edifying.

Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
- 2 Peter 1 [ESV]

Peter's salutation ends with a benediction which identifies where grace and peace come from, "May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord."  These come to the believer through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.  The text goes on to say, "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called..."  Peter believed that every Christian had already been given everything he would ever need to live a holy life that pleases the Lord. 

Have you ever overheard another believer sincerely and tearfully asking God to deliver them from some sin they were struggling with?  If what Peter says is true (and it certainly is), a prayer such as this betrays a gross misunderstanding of what it means to be a Christian.  It is like a man who has a trillion dollars in the bank begging his own banker to give him the scraps off his table.  God has already provided every believer with all that he or she needs to live in obedience to God.  The reason a believer does not t make use of what has been provided is because the believer is either ignorant or more likely misinformed.

Most Christians know, or have met, at least one "solid" Christian in their life.  A person whose not only sold out to God in every aspect of his or her life - but full of joy, peace, patience and light.  They seem to have something that makes their Christianity viable and real in a way that makes our own paper thin and powerless.  If this were not so, Christian self-help books wouldn't be so popular. 

The Apostle James wrote, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;  he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways" - James 1:2-8 [ESV].  

James was saying any believer who was experiencing those first century horrors that were being perpetrated against the early church ought to rejoice in what that experience was going to produce for them.  It was going to produce a steadfastness of faith which itself lead to spiritual maturity (being perfect and lacking nothing - which included the "wisdom" that James goes on to describe).

James' instruction for anyone who lacked that wisdom that instructed a believer in progressing from steadfast faith to spiritual maturity was to ask God to grant them that wisdom - for God does not reproach anyone who seeks this kind of wisdom, but gives to freely and generously to all who ask for it properly.  By properly, we mean those who honestly intend to use that wisdom to draw nearer to God.  

The main prerequisite to sanctification (assuming a genuine salvation of course) is genuine, ongoing repentance.  I think repentance is one of the most misunderstood concepts in the modern church, and that because sin itself is often misunderstood.  Every person, regardless of whether or not they are a Christian, has his or her own desires, and works to fulfill those desires.  They rule themselves, or to describe the same idea in another light, they obey their own desires.  The bible describes this as walking in the flesh, or as being carnal.  When you walk in the flesh you are obeying your own wishes, and everything that you do in this state is considered a "sin". Every last one of us in a kind of slave to our own desires.  We cannot turn them off or on at will - we experience them, and whenever it is within our power to do so (without causing us harm or embarrassment) we fulfill these desires.  This is what it means to be in "bondage" to sin - it means that we obey our own desires by default, and cannot shut them off even if we *really* wanted to.

Here we find something of a "rub" for many believers, primarily because so few believers are being given instruction in this matter.  Your "old man" (as the Apostle Paul describes it) remains in bondage to sin throughout your whole life.  The Christian however is in Christ and the life of Christ which is within in is by no means in bondage to sin.  Thus while the believer's desire to sin remains and always will remain, yet he or she possesses the person of Christ who is entirely free from this desire, such that the believer has access to two opposing desires - one which would incline the believer to pursue its own desires, the other (Christ) who inclines the believer (through the person of the indwelling Holy Spirit) to live an obedient life that is pleasing to God.  The two desires are in opposition so that the believer will never experience a unity in purpose between them - if he satisfies the flesh, he grieves the Spirit, and if he gratifies the spirit he grieves the flesh.

If we sin by obeying the desires that we ourselves are generating, we "repent" when we choose to obey the desires of Christ within us.  Every genuine believer chooses to obey the will of Christ over and against his or her own will, but immature believers do so less frequently - and in some cases the frequency is so rare that such a believer, though genuinely saved, gives no real indication of their salvation.  Just as an immature stalk of wheat looks no different than an immature tare, so also the immature Christian resembles the non-Christian in their daily walk.  How many Christians show up for church on Sunday, then live like non-Christians for the rest of the week?  It is as cliched as it is common (sadly).  Because immaturity is real and rampant, we must be on guard against deciding whether or not a believer is genuine based on visible obedience (or disobedience).   That doesn't mean we ignore sin in the church (if someone is found in their sin and refuses to repent of it, we discipline them, even to the point of putting them out of the church - not because we are judging them as "unsaved", but rather that we are judging them as unrepentant - and putting them out of the church for health of the remaining body, and for the Lord to work repentance in them from without).

To state it plainly again, because I can't say this enough: If sin is to be understood as surrendering your will to the fulfilling of your own desires, repentance is just the opposite - refusing to surrender your will to your own desires, and surrendering it instead to the desires of Christ.

Now, touching lightly again upon what James wrote, the greatest hindrance to Christian maturity is self deceit.  Think about the smoker who "wants to quit" but is convinced that he or she cannot quit.  They are being disingenuous.  The truth is that they do not want to quit, what they want is to keep on smoking - what they don't want is to experience the stigma, the costs, and the health hazards of smoking.  They like smoking, what they don't like is the various costs their addiction demands.  I am not suggesting that quitting smoking is physiologically easy - it certainly isn't.  What I am saying is that there is a superficial desire, and there is a soul deep desire, and though they are both aimed in the same direction, the one is impotent because the whole heart isn't in it.

My youngest doesn't like to eat anything green.  She will say that she is starving loudly crying for something to eat, but if you offer her something green to eat, she will not touch it with a ten foot pole.  She obviously isn't starving, and so while she is willing to eat on her own terms, she certainly isn't willing to eat anything she doesn't want to eat.  That is what the obedience of most Christians amounts to.  They are willing to swallow some of what God commands, as much as pleases them, but they are not willing to obey everything God commands - and the reason for this is that they are not really hungry for God.

Sanctification is a process by which God makes you hungry for Him - but it is a process that is also confusing and poorly understood by many believers.

I said I would touch lightly on what James wrote, before getting back to what Peter wrote, so here goes: James speaks about the way one acquires the wisdom necessary to mature in Christ - and the way to do that is to ask.  But James qualifies this by saying that the request has to be genuine (I am paraphrasing obviously).  In other words, if your mouth says you want to obey God, but you heart says that that isn't going to happen, God isn't going to be fooled by the words of your mouth. 

Our Lord described the kingdom of heaven as a pearl of great price - something you acquire by surrendering everything else in order to get it.  Likewise he describes it as a treasure hidden in a field, that one purchases by selling all that one owns in order to gain the field in which the treasure lies.  He speaks of counting the cost before one begins to build, etc. When our Lord speaks in Matthew 7:7, that  we are to ask, and it will be given to us, to seek, and we will find; to knock, and it will be opened to us - the seeking, asking, and knocking surely have the character described in Deuteronomy 4:29, "But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul." [ESV].  Do you know what this means?  It means that God understands that people are going to seek Him half-heartedly - and so He tells them up front that seeking Him half-heartedly isn't going to work.  The fact of the matter is that unless you are seeking the Lord whole-heartedly you aren't really seeking Him at all.

Just as this truth applies to the repentance required for genuine salvation, so also it applies to our sanctification.  As you received the Christ Jesus the Lord (i.e. through faith and a genuine, whole-hearted surrender to the will of God), so walk in Him (c.f. Colossians 2:6).  If we did not surrender our entirety to God when we come to Him for salvation - we did not get saved regardless of how perfect our theology or prayer may or may not have been.  God isn't fooled by the words of our mouths...  In the same way, we cannot grow in sanctification unless or until we learn to live in genuine, whole-hearted surrender to the will of God.

Like the child from our previous example who is willing to eat what he or she likes but refuses to eat that which doesn't agree with him, our obedience isn't actually obedience, it is the compromise of an unsurrendered heart.  We are not surrendering our will to the Lord's will, and so whatever "obedience" we manage to muster when our hearts are not entirely given to the Lord, doesn't actually reflect what is in our heart - such obedience is a lie.  Didn't Isaiah describe this when he said that our even our righteousnesses are as filthy rags (c.f. Isaiah 64:6)?  

That paints an accurate but somewhat depressing picture - not because it is describing normal Christianity, but because it is describing something far more common: carnal Christianity  (i.e. immature Christianity that continues attempting to please God without first, and continually surrendering to the will of God).

James is saying that if you don't know how to mature in Christ, you just need to ask God  for the wisdom, but not to expect Him to answer you if you're heart isn't in it.

The carnal believer will rightly ask, isn't that the real problem?  How can I ask God and expect an answer if my problem is that I am half-hearted?  How do I get from half-hearted to whole-hearted? Well first of all you should remember the parable of the prodigal son.  He wasn't all the way home yet before his father saw him returning on the road and ran up to meet him.  In this parable, you are the prodigal son, and God is the father, and if you, recognizing your own spiritual bankruptcy, do what you can to return to your father - he will meet you on that road because he loves you and is full of tender mercies.  Count on that

The problem isn't that God has shut you out, the problem is always that you have shut God out, and the answer to that problem is always that you need to return to that same whole-hearted surrender that characterized your salvation.  If you've been genuinely saved, you know exactly what I am talking about, and if what I am saying confuses you, there is a fair chance that, all your religious experience aside, you aren't really saved (yet).  God will save you if you call upon Him with your whole heart - He will do it right now, if you do so - it isn't the prayer that saves you, it you accepting God for whom God is - your Lord and rightful Master.  It is you trusting God's character - that He will save you even though you don't deserve it, even though your prayer is going to be inadequate, and even though you've spent your whole life in rebellion against his rule - He will save you if you turn away from your rebellion and believe that He will do what He has promised to do (save you if you call upon His name).

So you just need to not only repent. but continue on living in surrender to the will of God in order to become a mature believer.  That's where we step from James, to what Peter has said.  As I pointed out at the beginning of this post, Peter tells us that we already have all that we need (if we are Christians) to mature in Christ (i.e. to live godly lives).

God grants us all things pertaining to living the godly life "through the knowledge of Him [Christ]".  Did you know the semantic range of the word translated "knowledge" or sometimes "real/true knowledge" includes the word recognition?  Here is the thing with a semantic range - we can't just flip through the list of English that can be used to express the nuance of the this one Greek, and pick one that we like best.  The list itself taken as a whole gives nuance to whichever word best suits the context.  The "knowledge" described here shouldn't be woodenly understood as merely possessing specific information - it describes knowledge as something one has recognized to as true.

I don't want to make more of this than can be found in Peter's text, but the knowledge of Christ that Peter describes, may it may help you to understand the fullness of what Peter is saying if you understand the "knowledge of Christ" as a first hand knowledge acquired through recognizing the person of Christ as the Source within us Who provokes our godly desires.

I hope I am conveying the point adequately.  It is easy for the new believer to view himself as so insignificant to God that the whole matter of Christianity is rather impersonal.  Yes "Christ is in us" and all that - but we don't really feel him there, and we have nothing of substance - nothing tangible to point to and say this is Jesus, and not just my own intuition, or what have you.  For this reason, many new believers flounder about in their faith, looking for something substantial, and interpreting all many of things (feelings, intuitions, and all kinds of superstitious nonsense) as being the presence of the person of Christ, or the provocation of the Holy Spirit.  How many would-be prophets imagine themselves possessed of the power to sniff out sin in someone else's life because they ave both an over active imagination and have mistaken their own (often misguided and wrong) intuition as something spiritual?  The enemy surely has a hand in this sort of deception.

But Christ -is- in every genuine believer (through the indwelling Holy Spirit), and the first work of any faith is to draw near to the person (rather than to the idea) of Christ.  When we learn that our "flesh" ("old man", "sinful nature" or whatever you choose to call our default and un-erasable disposition to pursue our own desires) is entirely incapable of generating anything godly, and we begin to recognize that those genuine godly desires we experience must come from Christ - we must recognize the person of Christ in these convictions if we are going to increase in our "knowledge of Him".

Peter tells us that the first step (and dare I say, the foundational step) we ought to take in our sanctification - is to grow in this knowledge of Christ.  This involves three things - an informed (i.e. biblical) understanding of who Christ is (which is cumulatively acquired through a sustaining study of the scriptures), constant (and not shallow) prayer, and the sound knowledge of one's own depravity - which grants discernment in the matter of where a particular desire is coming from (Christ, or us).

Peter describes the journey from unsanctified, to sanctified as being in murky darkness, but being able to see, and follow a light in that darkness, until the day dawns (in our heart).  It is a perfect illustration, for we all start off sort of clueless, spiritually speaking, and though we share Christ's desire that we live lives pleasing to God the Father, yet we start off ignorant of how to get from here to there.  The text of 2 Peter 1, describes that path like a map, and in seeing our own situation (we are in need of this map) answered in the scriptures, we find comfort, joy, and hope in the reassurance that fuels our perseverance.

Make no mistake: knowing Christ isn't some airy-fairy thing where we pray to him, and he answers us audibly or through emotions and feelings - knowing Christ is recognizing Him in our lives, and surrendering our will, not to an idea - but to a person.  It is recognizing that there it is a Person who is impressing us with the desire to live lives that are godly, and learning to draw near to that person through our obedience - for the sake of drawing near to that Person!

You won't get there through pew-warming.  You won't get there through mastering your theology.  You won't get there by doing good, attending church, or involving yourself in one or more ministries - not through charity; the only way you can draw near to God is through humility (i.e. the genuine obedience that flows only from a fully surrendered heart).  You get there through Christ, and not through your own efforts.  As Christ becomes a real Person to you, and not just a religious truth you are personally convinced of, or an idea that you subscribe to - but because a person with a real personality, and becomes a person that you actually talk to (rather than "at") in prayer, you will begin to recognize Him in your life, and to "know" him - and when you do, you naturally add on to that all the things from the well of God's supply that lay dormant but available to you even now.

Having said all that, there are probably dozens of ways one can describe this same thing.  I am not suggesting that this is the definitive text that portrays this reality - I am saying that this is one text amongst many that if mined will reveal the necessity of having a real, living relationship with Christ, and how your entire Christian life is supposed to be about that.  You cannot live for God's glory - but Christ can live through you for God's glory, and insofar as you share in that through you union with Christ - you will also live, yet not you, but Christ in you.
posted by Daniel @ 11:09 AM  
  • At 11:14 AM, April 16, 2014, Blogger Daniel said…

    I plan to proofread this eventually, so once again, I ask the reader to bear with me, as sometimes the process of proofreading causes me to re-write and re-phrase, and provide new examples, and express new insights, that I never end up posting the original post. So I hit the publish button rather than risk that. (Seriously, I have hundreds of unpublished posts that I simply couldn't re-edit enough to satisfy what I intended to communicate.

    If you see any blatant mistakes, let me know and I will fix'em up.

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