This is a good time to write this; albeit very late. It’s definitely been more than a week. But I’m not exactly riding a high here, so let me assure you that what I’m about to propose isn’t on a whim, but something I believe deeply – even when I don’t want to, even when I’m not feeling it.
Why would I not want to or not be feeling it? Because it is hard, and I often fail. And I don’t like to do that.
I’m speaking of sanctification, which is the process by which I, a believer in Jesus the Christ, am being made holy; being set apart, by God and for God. What’s holiness? It’s God’s very essence, wholly other, perfect. He is perfecting me.
And that process is very hard for me. It’s hard for two reasons: because I want Him to and because I don’t want Him to. There are times when my flesh still craves sin. Very often in the moment, I want to be selfish. I really don’t want to cause myself inconvenience for another, especially if I’m not sure they’ll even care or notice. Ouch. Yes, my heart is evil. But Christ in me? He pulls, noticeably, on the strings around my heart, making me crave selflessness as well. No, not just out of guilt for being selfish, though that contributes, but absolutely also out of something very significant indeed: a love of righteousness. As I look for His guidance, submit to Him as God of my life, and do so daily, albeit often painstakingly, He really does change me – from within.
Let me talk more about what happens in the moments when “I want Him to,” and why that’s hard as well. I love Him. I love my God, so truly and (I try) completely that it actually affects me, in a real and present way, when I disappoint Him. He sees everything, absolutely everything. And I’m down here, bumbling around trying so hard, or what I feel like is so hard, to offer this sacrifice of obedience, and I fall, fall, fall, fall. Again and again I can’t shake the flaws of my character. In Him I get better, but even though I know full well that I won’t get it all right here, it’s still so frustrating when I fail at 2:16pm on a Saturday and inside I’m like, “Ahhhh, I AM SORRY. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
Then I hear the voices in my head of Christians in my life who remind me 1) that pride is in that feeling that I can somehow perfect that flaw 2) that only God, only only God can help me squash that demon. Only Him. There’s really no power in me alone, and I ought not be a fool enough to try that way.
(AND – that He has paid for those sins already, in full. That I do not earn His grace with any “success”.)
They’re usually a little less forward about it. But I get their gist. And they are right. So I breathe. Then I hear this, over and over:
“being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6
and am reminded that He has not given up on me, will not give up on me. That He will finish what He started. So I breathe deeply…because the grace of His people toward me is beautiful, but His? That really does transcend all.
Imagine a few more back and forths, prayers full of repentance and requests for grace, mercy, kindness, wisdom, patience…patience! Oh, God, please make me more patient, and a million Your will be done’s, because I really do trust Him.
This is the insight I want to give you: your walk, as a Christian, is really a run. It’s a run because it’s a race. Nothing really happens slowly. The devil is about – looking, actively, for ways to trip me up. As an individual, he cares about my failure. So I run. I run from His devices and towards my Savior, because He has defeated that devil before and He will defeat him again. And if Jesus lets me take some shots, it’s because He can carry me through it.
On that note: consider Job. Satan was convinced that given enough misery, Job would denounce God. God allowed Satan to try. Why? Because He knew that, with His (possibly unseesn, yeah) help, Job would prove His faithful servant. So if you are thrown a curve ball? Or are being thrown around on the outside of a tornado? It must be because He finds you capable of living through it, or being able to call on Him for rescue, or because He knows the tornado will take your life and He is waiting to redeem it. No matter, you. Will. Be. Fine. Who am I kidding? Much more than fine.
“The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:16-18
So you are running. Your fuel to run is the Word.
“like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.” 1 Peter 2:2-3
“Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” John 17:17
If you have tasted the kindness of the Lord! There are chills for days in that statement. Yes, we obey…if it takes every ounce of effort we can muster. Because we – have – tasted – the kindness of the Lord. And my friend, it’s sweeter than honey. We eat and drink those words in the Bible, because they are word of life, fuel for life; instruction in righteousness. And we do love righteousness! Because He does:
“He loves righteousness and justice; The earth is full of the lovingkindness of the Lord.” Psalm 33:5
Of Jesus: “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, Your God, has placed You above Your companions by anointing You with the oil of joy.” Hebrews 1:9
Put simply, we do strive to live a righteous, perfect life. We do so in full knowledge that, in this flesh, we will fail. But He is able to sanctify us – to make us holier and holier, day by day. He is able to do that. And He will do that. We will run towards this goal without fear for this earth and its troubles because:
“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:25-33
And we’ll believe He’ll do it because He’s promised. And because we will actively try. How can the Spirit live within us and no change occur? No dramatic shift? My friend, it’s impossible. No change? Question if that Spirit is there! And repent! Turn, turn, turn. If you want to bear fruit worthy of repentance…well you have to repent. Actively pursue righteousness, and He will bear you up.
“However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you, but if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans 8:9-11
“But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.” James 1:25
“Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5:24
“I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.” Romans 6:19-22
Folks, He is worth that effort. And to circle back, His lovingkindness and incredible grace and mercy are why I want to put in that effort so badly. This is not a blind love I have for Him. I love because He first loved me. This grace and mercy I live under is so freeing that YES! I want to be a slave to His righteousness, a willing servant in His kingdom, to build it while I’m here without fear of getting weary. He is more than enough for me.
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
What’s next is so wonderful that it’s incomparable in magnitude to anything on this earth, whether good or bad. The devil can have it all.