Sanctification (Position Paper for Alliance Distinctives, Crown College – MN, 2015)

01/29/2016 § Leave a comment

photo courtesy of yahwehistruth.com

photo courtesy of yahwehistruth.com

 

I.  Introduction

Every person who has ever lived has a past, a present and a future.  In much the same way, the new life of a believer who trusts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior recognizes life in the same way (Ephesians 2:1-7):

There is the believer’s life before the acceptance of Christ as Savior:

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens, the spirit now working in the disobedient.  We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also (Ephesians 2:1-3 HCSB).

There is today’s life in Christ:

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!” (Ephesians 2:4-5)

There is a future and a hope supported through the faith and trust in God’s promises for the future.  It is salvation through Jesus Christ that drives the believer to move beyond his past and learn more about Jesus Christ is in the present and the future:

“More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.  Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:8-14).

“Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens, so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6-7).

Our past, present and future is now grafted into a relationship with Jesus Christ (John 15:1-8, 1 Peter 1:3), and life in Christ came from being born again (John 3:3-8) and becoming a “new” person (2 Corinthians 5:17).  The development of this newness in Christ commences with the ongoing development of a relationship with Jesus Christ, who is now more than just Savior.  He now becomes Christ, the Sanctifier.  The present, for the believer, must now allow for the Holy Spirit to be the catalyst for sanctification, in order to be best prepared for the future, which includes living in effective service for Jesus Christ in proclaiming the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).

 

II.  Defining Sanctification

Sanctification is the process where a believer recognizes and allows the Holy Spirit, who dwells within the believer the moment he acknowledges Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, to work effectively within all aspects of the life of the believer.  This process requires a whole-hearted effort of reliance upon the wisdom and knowledge of the Holy Spirit imparted to the believer.  In this reliance, there is a progressive growth that takes place over time that helps the believer to make effective change.  This process leads to what Paul refers to as spiritual maturity:

“…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness” (Ephesians 4:13).

This maturity comes from learning more about Jesus Christ, which comes from a healthy relational development between Christ and the believer–His sanctification of the believer.

Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the Sanctifier when He prayed over His disciples in John 17:

“Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. I sanctify Myself for them, so they also may be sanctified by the truth” (John 17:17-19).

The word “sanctification” comes from the Greek word hagiasmos meaning “holiness” or “separation” (Houdmann, n.d.) and to be “set apart for special use.”  A. B. Simpson noted the following about being set apart:

“Sanctification means dedication. It is not only to separate from but to separate to.  The radical idea of the word is, set apart to be the property of another. And so the complement of this act which we have already partly described is this positive side in which we offer ourselves to God for His absolute ownership, that He may possess us as His peculiar property, prepare us for His purpose and work out in us all His holy and perfect will” (Simpson, p. 5-6, n.d.).

The sanctification process makes the believer more distinct in words and actions as he lives for Jesus Christ, and it gives him the ability to be a light for Jesus Christ in a dark world:

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light—for the fruit of the light results in all goodness, righteousness, and truth—discerning what is pleasing to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8-10).

 

III.  The Relationship between Justification and Sanctification

Justification is the work of God through Jesus Christ that removes the penalty of sin from believers, and Jesus Christ was the atonement for our sin when He paid the penalty.  In His actions, those who believe in Jesus Christ are declared righteous before God.

Sanctification is distinct from justification but equally as important in the life of the believer.  It involves the full participation of the believer to allow the indwelling Holy Spirit to be a partner in the growth process.

Justification by faith comes from believing in Jesus Christ as necessary for salvation.  This is first referenced in Scripture with Abram (Abraham) in Genesis 15:

“Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).

Paul, in the New Testament, referred to Abraham’s faith in God as the most important aspect of one’s righteousness before God (Cole, 2013):

“Just as Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness, then understand that those who have faith are Abraham’s sons. Now the Scripture saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and told the good news ahead of time to Abraham, saying, All the nations will be blessed through you. So those who have faith are blessed with Abraham, who had faith” (Galatians 3:6-9)

“A person is accepted by God apart from good works and solely on the basis of the righteousness of God credited to that person’s account through faith” (Cole, 2013).  Sanctification of a believer cannot occur without God’s justification, no matter what a person does to try to be good before Him.  Justification can only take place when the believer has faith in the One who atones for our sin.  Sanctification does not impact or alter God’s justification (Slick, 1995), but “we are justified that we might be sanctified. Sanctification is not a unique privilege for a few; it is the very purpose of our salvation” (Smith, 1992).

 

IV.  Positional Sanctification

When a person trusts in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, he is referred to as a believer in Jesus Christ, and it is at the moment of the declaration that he becomes justified. “All Christians understand first the first reality: that Christ’s blood has atoned for their sins and they no longer need to fear eternal separation from God” (Soper, n.d.).  He has received from God a positional sanctification from the moment that the Holy Spirit indwells the believer.  This positional sanctification “is known and experienced in full through a definitive act wherein the believer, by faith, receives the gift of the Spirit” (Smith, 1992).  The new believer is indeed “a new creation in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

This positional sanctification is the separation of a believer in Jesus Christ to that of a non-believer in Christ, who is deemed as lost without this saving faith:

“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God” (John 3:16-18).

Positional sanctification does not assure that a believer is in any way mature in their faith.  While the status of the believer remains that of one who is in Christ, there is room for growth and improvement.  Paul noted this level of immaturity to the believers in Corinth:

“Brothers, I was not able to speak to you as spiritual people but as people of the flesh, as babies in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food, because you were not yet ready for it. In fact, you are still not ready, because you are still fleshly. For since there is envy and strife among you, are you not fleshly and living like unbelievers?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)

This means that, at this stage of the development of a believer, that the only distinction between one who is saved and one who is lost is the justification of the believer through faith in Jesus Christ.  It is a distinction that allows the believer to be referred to as a child of God, forever justified through the blood of Jesus Christ (Stoll, 1996).

 

V.  Experiential Sanctification

Experiential sanctification moves beyond positional sanctification to where the believer now lives in such a way that conforms to how Jesus Christ would have him to live.  This is a life-progression of one’s faith in Christ.  As the believer recognizes the life that he has because of God’s grace through salvation and sees the importance of what God has done through this salvation, he is compelled to live it outwardly before others.  This starts with the work of the Holy Spirit with a transformation of the way the believer thinks about life and those around him:

“Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

Experiential sanctification is the path to maturity by the means of spiritual growth within a greater intimacy with Jesus Christ.  A. B. Simpson noted:

“And so the same Christ is formed in each of us; is formed as a babe and grows, as He did

on earth, into maturity in our spiritual life, and we grow into a closer union with Him, and a more habitual and intimate dependence upon Him for all our life and actions” (Simpson, p. 80, 1890).

This spiritual growth is not without conflict.  The conflict comes from the believer’s perspective of living in a Christlike manner versus the world’s perspective of living.  This conflict involves everything outside of abiding in Christ up to and including spiritual warfare (Klubnik, n.d.).  Our maturity in faith requires ongoing prayer, preparation and endurance within the growth process by relying heavily upon the power of God through the Holy Spirit:

“Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.  For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist,

righteousness like armor on your chest, and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. In every situation take the shield of faith, and with it you will be able to extinguish

all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit,

which is God’s word. Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:11-18).

A lack of spiritual maturity that stunts the growth of the believer is mainly due to fearfulness of the enemy, Satan.  It comes in various forms–the worries of this life, a failure to read Scripture, or even the desire to be liked by people of the world.  The enemies of Christ are thieves who seek to rob the joy of the believer.  They keep many believers from realizing and recognizing the abundant life that Jesus Christ speaks of in John, Chapter 10:

“A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance” (John 10:10).

 

VI.  The Connection between a ‘Crisis Moment’ and Experiential Sanctification

Among the definitions for the word ‘crisis’ are “the turning point for better or worse in an acute disease or fever” or “an emotionally significant event or radical change of status in a person’s life” (Merriam-Webster, n.d.).  A moment of crisis is a turning point for a person.  It brings about, almost in a forceful manner, a change that has a significant impact on a person and the people around him.  The process of experiential sanctification involves a moment of crisis or a group of crises in the life of a believer.  While they do not necessarily need to be dire, they are certainly impactful as to the believer’s approach to life, ministry and his developing faith and trust in Jesus Christ.  A. B. Simpson notes that these moments lead to spiritual maturity that produce a lessening on one’s own strength and  reliance on oneself and a greater dependency upon the power and strength of Jesus Christ, or as he noted, “the absolute all-sufficiency of God Himself” (Simpson, p. 65, 1890).

There are two ways to view a crisis with the relationship of a believer:  it can either drive a person away from Christ, which challenges the notion that the person was a believer in the first place (John 6:60-66), or it will drive a person into a deeper love, appreciation and understanding of Christ:

“We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

This deeper love of Jesus Christ transforms a believer, in his experiential sanctification, to an unwavering faithfulness and dedication to serve Him for the salvation of the lost, even in the midst of adversity.  Paul said it well:

“Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints. Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.  For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough in Him to speak as I should” (Ephesians 6:18-20).

God has allowed these moments of crises to occur in the life of a Christian for the sole purpose of growth and progression, but He encourages the believer to not lose heart (Sullivan, n.d.) or give up:

“So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith” (Galatians 6:9-10).

 

VII.  The Role Progression Plays in Experiential Sanctification

Progression as a believer in Jesus Christ means that there has been growth in living a Christlike life.  This is a necessary component of experiential sanctification.  There must be evidence of this progression that comes from remaining steadfast and opposing those things that hamper such growth:

“Finally then, brothers, we ask and encourage you in the Lord Jesus, that as you have received from us how you must walk and please God—as you are doing—do so even more.  For you know what commands we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is God’s will, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality, so that each of you knows how to control his own body in sanctification and honor, not with lustful desires, like the Gentiles who don’t know God.  This means one must not transgress against and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger of all these offenses, as we also previously told and warned you.  For God has not called us to impurity but to sanctification.  Therefore, the person who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who also gives you His Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 3:1-8).

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.  Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-25).

Progression of the believer includes the ongoing desire to be obedient to the Holy Spirit and allowance of the Spirit to provide self-control over any fleshly desires.  It is the ongoing saturation of God’s Word that gives the believer the power to resist temptation and abstain from sin:

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping Your word. I have sought You with all my heart; don’t let me wander from Your commands. I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You” (Psalm 119:9-11).

 

VIII.  How a Believer is Simultaneously ‘Dead to Sin and Alive to God’

A believer has the power of the Holy Spirit through his relationship with Jesus Christ, but the flesh also remains with the believer, which also creates a significant dependence upon the power of the Spirit to resist temptation and sin.  As a person grows in sanctification, the temptations of Satan may diminish, but our earthly bodies will still commit sin:

“For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good. So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but it is the sin that lives in me” (Romans 7:15-20).

A. B. Simpson correctly noted that “temptation is not sin unless it be accompanied with the consent of your will” (Simpson, p. 37, 1890); however, it is entirely possible to resist temptation by using the proper discernment through the Holy Spirit and denouncing the temptation altogether. Simpson noted, “I will not sin; I reckon myself still dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God through Jesus Christ” (Simpson, p. 37, 1890).

God also is merciful because of the war that a believer experiences within the flesh because He is faithful in His promise that demonstrates being alive in Christ:

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

 

IX.  Holiness and Why it Must Characterize God’s People

Holiness is the standard in which all of God’s people are measured.  It is only attainable because of God’s righteousness from the believer’s faith in Him.  Note the comments of A. B. Simpson and the importance of faith in achieving true holiness:

“And it is possible to any soul that will believe, no matter how unholy it has been, no matter how perverse it is; as mean perhaps and crooked as Jacob, as gross as David in his darkest sin, as self confident as Simon Peter, as willful and self-righteous as Paul–it may be and shall be made as spotless as the Son of God, as holy as the holiness of Jesus Himself, who comes to dwell within, if we will only believe and receive” (Simpson, p. 2, 1890).

Holiness depends upon faith in Jesus Christ but it also requires a serious approach and a humble attitude of obedience to His Word:

“Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be serious and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 3:13-16).

God’s people are sanctified—set apart—for the purpose of drawing people near to Jesus Christ.  A believer cannot attract people to Christ if he is not striving for this holiness.  He must pass the standard of Christ as a person who is approved for the work in the Kingdom:

“Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, having this inscription: The Lord knows those who are His, and everyone who names the name of the Lord must turn away from unrighteousness. Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver bowls, but also those of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. So if anyone purifies himself from anything dishonorable, he will be a special instrument, set apart, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” (1 Peter 1:13-16).

 

X.  How I Will Lead the People I Serve into a ‘Sanctified’ Life

God led me, within a very short time after I accepted Jesus as my Lord and personal Savior, to positions of leadership within churches in the greater Cleveland area; specifically in areas of teaching Sunday school.  I had not asked Him for such a role, but after prayerful consideration, I started out teaching the teens, and then moved up to an adult class within a year.  I’m confident that God gave me such a role because He wanted to make sure that I was focused on studying His Word, which ultimately led to my studying Him more and more. I was compelled to study and grow in His Word with every new assignment:

“Above all, be strong and very courageous to carefully observe the whole instruction My servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go. This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do” (Joshua 1:7-8).

It has been more than twenty-five years since I was first asked to teach Sunday school.  I am still teaching it today, and it is nothing less than an honor and a privilege to do so.  In preparation for teaching, I have learned to share with my classmates more about sanctification as I have been exposed more and more to Scripture and A. B. Simpson’s teachings.  It is clear to me that my role, as God has shown me, is to bolster up the believers in class by encouraging them to seek a deeper, more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, which will guide them into living a sanctified life:

“You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:12-13).

My class material has focused heavily on deepening this relationship with the daily reading of Scripture through a two-year bible reading plan and the development of one’s personal image in Jesus Christ.  Following the biblical reference of Genesis 1:27 (So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.), I developed the acronym IMAGE to describe key elements as to how a person develops an intimate, healthy relationship with Jesus Christ:

I – Investigate.  A person does not just read the bible, but investigates the contextual meaning and relevance of the Scripture in the life of the believer (Hebrews 4:12-13; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; Romans 10:17).

M – Meditate.  In order to hear how the Spirit is speaking to the believer, there needs to be a regular practice of meditation of the Scripture through consistent (and constant) prayer.  It is time well spent in developing this close relationship that sanctifies the believer (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2; Philippians 4:8).

A – Act (Application).  The believer is now called to live out what he has learned in these daily readings and prayer time.  In order to be a light in the world, people need to see the fruits of the Spirit in one’s daily actions.  God will provide you with many opportunities to make a testimony of Christ before others (Psalm 37:23; 2 Timothy 2:15).

G – Grow.  This daily practice of bible reading, prayer and meditation and living for Christ is a recipe for growth within your Christlike existence.  This growth is the progression of a believer in his desire for intimacy with Christ, and Christ sanctifies the believer more and more within this process.  There is a greater desire, in this growth, to want to sin less and live more for Christ (Ephesians 4:15-16; Colossians 1:9-12; Philippians 4:13).

E – Endure.  Living a Christlike life will always have its share of challenges, including outright opposition.  Jesus calls for us to live for Him and be prepared to face any adversity because He will keep us through the entire process.  He simply calls for the believer to stand in Him and His promises.  These are all within the process of his sanctification of the believer (Galatians 6:9-10; Ephesians 6:16-19; Matthew 10:16-22; Colossians 1:11-12).

I have given emphasis to this personal development in Sunday school class and in a number of seminars that I have hosted over the past few years, and I have posted these teachings online through our church website.  I am grateful for God’s vision as to how to not only proclaim the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but to also provide strength and encouragement to believers in Christ, for these are the people that ultimately must stand and make a declaration of the saving power of Christ in a lost world.

 

XI.  The relationships between sanctification and Christian service

The process of the sanctification gives the believer the desire to serve Jesus Christ.  While sanctification is a process that moves the believer away from fulfilling his own desires or conforming to the world, it also gives the believer the impetus to live in a Christlike manner, remain obedient to Christ and also reach people who are lost by taking part in His Great Commission.

A. B. Simpson described one of the effects of sanctification:

“Sanctification means dedication. It is not only to separate from but to separate to. The radical idea of the word is, set apart to be the property of another. And so the  complement of this act which we have already partly described is this positive side in which we offer ourselves to God for His absolute ownership, that He may possess us as His peculiar property, prepare us for His purpose and work out in us all His holy and perfect will” (Simpson, p. 5-6, n.d.).

As a believer is sanctified and presents himself before others as sanctified, there is an ongoing preparation to get to work for Him in order to carry out His will:

“Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

This spiritual worship is whatever God would have the believer to do in whatever place or position the believer is in.  He desires to be obedient to God by living according to His will and purpose before others.  The sanctified believer is empowered by the Holy Spirit to perform this reasonable service, and its purpose is to glorify God before others:

“Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—-to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

 

XII.  “The Indwelling Christ’ and the Implications for Those Professing Faith in Christ

Once the believer in Jesus Christ accepts Him as a personal Savior, the person is sealed with the presence of the Holy Spirit:

“When you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed in Him, you were also sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. He is the down payment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).

The Holy Spirit indwells the believer and gives him the power to live, through ongoing progression with sanctification, a life that resonates that love and belief in Jesus Christ.  The proclamation of faith is the release of the joy within the believer because of Christ’s presence in his life.  A. B. Simpson noted about this joy:

“This is the deepest secret of spiritual joy; it is the indwelling Christ Himself rejoicing in the heart as He rejoiced on earth even in the darkest hour of His life, and as now, in heaven, He realizes the fulfillment of His own Messianic words in the sixteenth psalm: ‘Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoiceth; my flesh also shall rest in hope. For Thou wilt not leave my soul among the dead, nor suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt show me the path of life; in Thy presence there is fullness of joy, and at Thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.’ In the fullness of joy He is reigning now, and its tides are swelling and rising to the same level in every heart in which He dwells” (Simpson, p. 21, 1890).

God desires for the sanctified believer to be filled with joy and rejoice in his love and faith in Christ before others.  Because He loves us, He wants the believer to share the love of Christ to others in professing faith in Him:

“As the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you. Remain in My love. If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father. You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. This is what I command you: Love one another” (John 15:9-17).

 

XIII.  The Scriptural Evidence of a Sanctified Life

A believer who is sanctified and is growing in sanctification will reflect this growth openly and outwardly to everyone that he comes into contact with.  M. DeWayne Anderson noted, “If there is sanctification in the believer, then there must be evidence of that sanctification. Sanctification is made nothing if there is no evidence.  The definitive evidence of Christ’s great power is being demonstrated by His presence and work in our lives” (Anderson, 2012).

Sanctification means a separation from the past life and a progression that reflects a change from where the believer was to where the believer is today, and that change is visible:

“Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom. And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

At the very least, a believer who is progressing in sanctification should be distinct from the life of a non-believer.  This is not about perfection, but it is about the demonstration of living a life of holiness and the production of spiritual fruit that originate from the Holy Spirit. The evidence of being set apart from the world will be in reflected in action, speech and conversation before others:

“Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit” (Galatians 5:24-25).

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:14-16).

 

XIV.  The Relationship between Sanctification and the Lordship of Christ

Upon Christ’s presence in the life of a believer, he is being set apart in the world through the three tenses of salvation:

I have been saved: Justification

I am being saved: Sanctification

I will be saved: Glorification (Soper, n.d.)

Michael Houdmann noted, “In the past, God granted us justification, a once-for-all, positional holiness in Christ. Now, God guides us to maturity, a practical, progressive holiness. In the future, God will give us glorification, a permanent, ultimate holiness. These three phases of sanctification separate the believer from the penalty of sin (justification), the power of sin (maturity), and the presence of sin (glorification)” (Houdmann, n.d.).

“But it is from Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became God-given wisdom for us—our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, in order that, as it is written: The one who boasts must boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)

The key to this relationship is that God, through Jesus Christ, imparts His wisdom to us that brings the believer to recognize that He is indeed Lord and Savior.  He is the Alpha and the Omega (Revelation 1:8, 22:13) that was there from the very beginning and will be in the future when He dwells with all believers.

The sanctification of the believer requires a life of humility in order to be effective led by the Holy Spirit.  A person who desires to live a Spirit-filled life must be adaptable to change in the process of sanctification.  It requires a surrender of one’s own understanding of life and an acceptance to Christ’s role as sanctifier, and to faithfully abide in Him through obedience to His Word (Soper, n.d.).  This desire to live a Spirit-filled life is because Jesus Christ is declared to be Lord and Savior.  It is a life of humility that Christ desires for us to imitate, and the believer willing does this because of who he serves:

“Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross. For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11).

 

XV.  My Personal Experience of Sanctification: Its Effect and Implications on My Lifestyle and Ministry

I am thankful for Jesus Christ for saving me, and I am honored to serve Him in my role as a speaker, writer and instructor of His Word.  I don’t take it lightly; however, I know that my sanctification in my relationship with Jesus Christ is ongoing.

I know that he has changed me from where I was in my former life before accepting him. I am no longer lost due to the penalty of sin because of the grace of God through Jesus Christ, which provided me with immediate sanctification when I said “yes” to Him:

“But now, since you have been liberated from sin and have become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification-—and the end is eternal life! For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:22-23).

I know that He set me apart to do something, but it took me a little while to determine what that “something” was.  People that I came into contact with seemed to think that I was a pastor, and that came only from what people saw in me through the Holy Spirit.  This was happening well before I had even presented my first message in 2003 at Akron Alliance Fellowship Church.  I was just beginning to see the value of trusting in God enough to show me what my talents and spiritual gifts were.  I had to see, through my own progression in sanctification, that my talents were somewhat hidden until I became an adult, but the Holy Spirit brought forth my gift to write and to speak, and He has helped me to grow in this area over the past five years.  After hearing gifted speakers such as my pastor, Gus Brown, Charles Stanley, Franklin Graham, Alistair Begg and Ravi Zacharias through live appearances and podcasts, to name a few, I realized that I still had a lot to learn.  From this, I prayed over this and, after careful deliberation, I decided to go for my Master’s Degree at Crown College, and enrolled in 2013.

I wanted to learn more and remain teachable, for I had witnessed others who wanted to assume the position of pastor in different venues but were unwilling to put in the time or effort to make themselves more biblically sound.  I wanted to make sure that my desire to speak was not an ego-driven enterprise; instead, I wanted it to be a God-glorifying exercise of faith:

“Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14).

I also learned, through my sanctification process, that God gave me the gift of discernment, which has proved to be valuable in assessing persons who have aspired to join our church in our quest for a partner in ministry.  I was very disappointed by the number of people who see ministry as a status symbol and not as an opportunity and a privilege to teach the fellowship of believers and with the desire to reach the lost.

Our church is now undertaking a transition in that we do have a new assistant pastor-in-training on board, and he is relying heavily on both the pastor and myself to help him along.  He will be challenged to grow in the faith and to trust in Jesus Christ as I have.  As for me, my journey as I work (and sometimes wrestle) with Jesus Christ over what He would have me to do will reach another step in July 2016 upon graduation, and I am pondering my next steps of training.

The illness and eventual passing of my father-in-law and the ongoing illness of my mother has exposed me to latent feelings of helplessness in my life.  I have had to reckon with the futility of living life without Jesus Christ by praying for my father-in-law’s salvation, which finally took place about a week before he died.  The experience of the daily efforts to care for him and my mother were exhausting and yet exhilarating at the same time because of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, who provided rest in Him.  It gave me the opportunity to further deepen my relationship with Him, and He, in turn, taught me a great deal more about empathy and humility, a very important characteristic that a believer must possess in any ministerial leadership capacity.  To be clear, while these moments were emotional, I did not consider these to be Spirit-filling experiences.  This is an erroneous view of how the Spirit works (Soper, n.d.).  I had to go back to His Word and read it each day, for the ultimate joy came from fellowship with Jesus Christ through His Word speaking to me.

Jesus sanctifies me daily.  I trust in Him and His presence.  I will trust in Him, through good times and through difficulty, and my desire is to do all that I can, in my work, life and church ministry, to glorify God.

 

References

Holman Christian Standard Bible (2009). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.

Houdmann, S. (n.d.) – Article – What is sanctification? What is the definition of Christian sanctification? gotquestions.org. Retrieved December 31, 2015 from http://www.gotquestions.org/sanctification.html

Simpson, A. (n.d.). Wholly Sanctified. New York, NY: Christian Alliance Publishing Co.

Riser, S. (2008). The Way We Were (Before Christ) – Weblog Article. The John Ankerberg Show. Chattanooga TN: Ankerberg Theological Research Institute. Retrieved December 31, 2015 from https://www.jashow.org/articles/guests-and-authors/dr-steven-c-riser/the-way-we-were-before-christ/

Cole, S. (2013). Lesson 31: Justification by Faith Alone (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:1-5). From the Genesis Series.  Bible.org. Retrieved December 31, 2015 from https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-31-justification-faith-alone-genesis-156-romans-41-5

Slick, M. (1995). Article – Justification and Sanctification: What is the Difference? Nampa ID: The Christian and Apologetics Ministry. Retrieved December 31, 2015 from https://carm.org/questions/about-doctrine/justification-and-sanctification-what-difference

Smith, G. (1992). Article – Conversion and Sanctification in the Christian & Missionary Alliance.  Alberta, Canada: Ambrose University College.  Retrieved December 31, 2015 from https://online.ambrose.edu/alliancestudies/ahtreadings/ahtr_s103.html#*

Soper, J. (n.d.). Article – Sanctification. The Alliance. Colorado Springs, CO: The Christian and Missionary Alliance. Retrieved December 31, 2015 from http://www.cmalliance.org/about/beliefs/perspectives/sanctification

Stoll, J. (1996). Chapter 20 – The Threefold Elements of Sanctification. Biblical Principles for Christian Maturity. From Leadership University. Retrieved December 31, 2015 from http://www.leaderu.com/offices/stoll/maturity/chap20.html

Simpson, A. (1890). A Larger Christian Life. New York NY: Christian Alliance Publishing Co.

Klubnik, J. (n.d.). Article – The Sanctification of a Believer. BiblicalResources.org. Retrieved December 31, 2015 from http://www.biblicalresources.org/resources/christian-life/sanctification/

crisis. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, 11th ed. Retrieved December 31, 2015 from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/crisis

Sullivan, M. (n.d.). Essay – Five Views on Sanctification. xenos.org. Columbus, OH: Xenos Christian Fellowship. Retrieved December 31, 2015 from https://www.xenos.org/essays/five-views-sanctification#My view of sanctification

Anderson, M. (2012). Article – The Evidence Of Sanctification. Website – Dr. M. DeWayne Anderson Growing in the knowledge of the Lord. Retrieved December 31, 2015 from http://www.mdanba.com/2012/01/05/the-evidence-of-sanctification/

 

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L.A.D.I.E.S. Brunch Conference featuring author Angelica Leigh Reeves – Saturday, Sept. 26

09/21/2015 § Leave a comment

LADIES Flyer Large Quick Text September 26 2015

 

 

Ladies, join us September 26, 2015 for a great morning of inspiration and encouragement with our special Guest Speaker: Angelica Leigh Reeves, author of Black Girls Don’t Cry, available at Amazon.com in the first of a new series of L.A.D.I.E.S. brunch events (Living as Devoted in Every Sense).

About Angelica:

Angelica Leigh is an example of how God can take someone that was once broken into pieces and place them perfectly together to fit His will. Hidden behind her smile was a young girl who battled with low self-esteem and depression for many years. Finding herself jobless and pregnant at 19, was devastating; but she vowed with God’s help, to do everything she could to turn her life around. Through her journey she found that each experience was a stepping stone to discovering her purpose. Overcoming those obstacles fueled her passion to help young women find their way.

Joining Angelica will be Anita Bivens Morrison from Hope Alliance Bible Church of Maple Heights.

Admission is FREE for this “can’t miss” event!  Please call 330.376.4654 or Melvin Gaines at 234.206.0345. You can also send a message (voice or text) to 234.214.6550.

 

Just Do It! (Research Paper for Practical Christian Theology, Crown College – MN, 2015)

09/07/2015 § Leave a comment

The mission of Nike, Inc., a renowned international athletic shoe and apparel company, is to “bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world,” and they quickly add, “if you have a body, you are an athlete” (Nike, n.d.). Nike started from humble beginnings where employees were selling shoes out of their cars to become the world’s leader with global revenues of over $27 billion (U.S.) dollars (Statista, 2015).

The name “Nike,” originating from the Greek goddess of the same name standing for “victory,” (Wikipedia, n.d.) has been around for over forty years, and over that time it has defined and redefined the sports fitness industry, but not without its own missteps. It misjudged the popularity of the aerobics and fitness movement in the mid 1980s and veered off into the casual shoe market. Its growth also outpaced its management and effective decision-making (Willigan, 1992), and it had slipped from its position as the top-selling shoe (Taube, 2003). To reverse this trend, Nike hired Weiden+Kennedy, a well-known advertising agency, and they came up with the one of the top slogans of the 20th Century, “Just Do It” (Wikipedia, n.d.), which made its debut for the company in 1988. The words “just do it” propelled Nike’s popularity to its top position in the industry. Three years after the debut of “Just Do It,” the company had tripled its revenue to over $3 billion dollars, and has not looked back since (Willigan, 1992).

“Just do it” may be a catchy slogan with staying power, but it is the language of today’s lifestyle to spur people to get up and move. It is associated with good health, getting and staying in shape, and remaining active in all parts of life. This also has application within our faith.

Consider that the words “just do it” for Jesus Christ reflect a healthy relationship in service for Him. James expresses this very clearly as he addressed believers in Christ with the importance of a working faith:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:14-17 ESV)

A servant of Jesus Christ absolutely needs to live under the premise of “just do it” in order to live as Christ provided His life as an example for us. We are to live as servants of Christ in a world where servanthood is more of the exception than the rule. We live in a world where many have adopted “an independent, self-sufficient, survival-of-the-fittest mentality” (Swindoll, 1981). God has called us to be distinct in a positive way in the world, and to make a difference. The difference is living the “just do it” way as Jesus did:

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life-—a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

Jesus provided a demonstration of what it is to be a servant by washing the feet of the apostles. He provided an explanation for them when He was finished:

When Jesus had washed their feet and put on His robe, He reclined again and said to them, “Do you know what I have done for you? You call Me Teacher and Lord. This is well said, for I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you. I assure you: A slave is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them” (John 13:12-17).

Jesus showed them the power of servanthood, which is the essence of living a Christlike existence. To be in service for Christ is to live for Christ. He assures those who are living for Him that He will always be present in whatever is being done in His name:

If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:26 ESV)

You can see how “just do it” can be a launching point for a person who is eager to serve Jesus Christ. Being a servant requires a willingness to do it and it takes practice to begin to master it. But what if you don’t know where to begin this process? In this instance, the best place to begin is the beginning.

  1. Just do it (now)!

Being a servant begins with a willingness to do something that will bring a positive change in someone’s life. It does not necessarily require that you need to use any special talent or ability. It may be moving furniture to reorganize a room or to help someone move from an apartment to a new home. It may be standing at the church doorway and greeting people while handing out the week’s church bulletin. Sometimes, it means buying a meal or even some groceries for a family who is in need. In a world where people are more often self-focused then not, the ability to step out and simply do something for someone is refreshingly distinctive. It’s the beginning step in a life of servanthood.

  1. Just do it without expecting anything in return

There is a way to treat people, and being a servant is no exception to this. A servant in Christ is to live in such a way that it is natural to do the right thing for someone, and to not expect anything in return or create a burden of obligation for the other person.

The essence of “doing what is right” is the foundation of what Jesus Christ represents:

Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them—-this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12 HCSB)

The ways of the world normally see acts of compassion with suspicion. For some people, it is difficult to accept a person’s help because it is a societal norm that the help is to be reciprocated. As a servant of Jesus Christ, your acts of service are performed with a heart for Jesus and without any need or expectation for the person to do anything in return. The moment that the burden of returning the favor is left in place, that is when Christ’s presence is less visible, and when He is less likely to be glorified as you serve. We serve Christ freely and without any burden for ourselves and for others. People need to see the light and airy love of Christ in everything that you do in service for Him:

“Come to Me (Jesus), all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 HCSB)

Our service for Christ, as we develop our heart for service, should also be an expression of what it is to live a life of freedom for Him (John 8:36).

  1. Just do it…and put some heart into it!

A servant for Christ not only demonstrates the example of Christlike behavior to others, but also learns the perspective of servanthood with the heart and mind of Jesus. As you learn more about Jesus through His Word and live in obedience to Him, He will most certainly transform you as you live as His example before others. Being refreshingly distinctive from the world means being set apart in a positive way. People will see your heart for Christ in what you do. “To be set apart involves changing from your old self to not only become a new creature, but a creature that becomes more and more Christ-like every day” (Gaines, 2015).

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1-2 HCSB)

Swindoll notes that a servant for Christ must change to avoid the world’s reasoning and conform to the thoughts of Jesus:

“How? By a radical transformation within. By a renewed thought pattern that demonstrates authentic godlikeness. Living differently begins with thinking differently” (Swindoll, 1981).

Living for Christ in this renewed mind will allow you to see the compassion of Christ in everything that you do for others.

Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” (Luke 7:11-16 ESV)

Your servanthood with a heart for Jesus will be seen by people who don’t know Him personally as a wonderful introduction (and perhaps an invitation) to who He is. A servant for Christ truly is a light in a very dark world:

“You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16 HCSB)

Chuck Swindoll noted that the opportunities to reach the lost, through servanthood, are limitless, and in your service, you personally receive joy in your accomplishments through your fellowship with Jesus Christ:

“In every town, every neighborhood, and on every block there are lonely and sometimes unlovely men and women who need to experience the love of Jesus. In every city there are children who have never known a gentle touch or a loving smile.” “There are acts of love and mercy that God has already prepared for you, so that you might share in His joy–so that you might grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Swindoll, 1981).

A life of servanthood for Jesus Christ is a life that embodies ministry in fulfillment of His Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Your obedience and faithfulness to Him will be a witness for Him in everything that you do. Now, all that you need to do is “just do it.”

 

References

Mission of Nike, Inc. (n.d.). Retrieved July 18, 2015, from About Nike website: http://about.nike.com/

Statistics and facts on Nike (2015). Retrieved July 18, 2015 from Statista.com website: http://www.statista.com/topics/1243/nike/

Nike – Mythology (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved July 18, 2015 from Wikipedia website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nike_(mythology)

Willigan, G. (1992). Article – High-performance marketing: an interview with Nike’s Phil Knight. Harvard business review, July-August 1992 Issue. Retrieved July 18, 2015 from HBR.org website: https://hbr.org/1992/07/high-performance-marketing-an-interview-with-nikes-phil-knight

Taube, A. (2013). 25 Nike ads that shaped the brand’s history. Business insider inc. Retrieved July 18, 2015 from businessinsider.com website: http://www.businessinsider.com/25-nike-ads-that-shaped-the-brands-history-2013-8?op=1

Nike, Inc. (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved July 18, 2015 from Wikipedia website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nike,_Inc.

Swindoll, C. (1981). Improving your serve. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN.

Gaines, M. (2015). Message – Set apart for a purpose. Akron Alliance Fellowship Church. Retrieved July 18, 2015 from akronalliance.org: http://akronalliance.org/2015/01/11/set-apart-for-a-purpose/

L.A.D.I.E.S. Brunch Conference 2015 – Saturday, September 26 – Save the Date

08/05/2015 § Leave a comment

LADIES Flyer Quick Text September 26 2015

Who Needs Theology?

07/30/2015 § Leave a comment

WhoNeedsTheologyWhen I made the decision to return to school two years ago to work on obtaining my Master’s degree, I knew that it was the right thing to do. It was just as important as when I enrolled at the University of Akron part time back in 1997 to work towards my Bachelor’s degree. For anyone who considers furthering his or her education, it is admirable and beneficial to stay the course and complete the task. (It is costly, for sure, but the benefits do transcend the financial burden over a lifetime.)

I will always be an advocate of higher education and pursuing knowledge by going to school or taking online classes. Doctors, lawyers, tradesmen and various professionals are where they are today because of their pursuit of knowledge in the classroom.

Knowledge is also important from a societal picture. There are studies that indicate that graduation from high school, especially for African-American males, can make a difference in lowering crime and incarceration levels. [1]

To obtain knowledge is beneficial. Knowledge is power.

From a believer’s perspective, when we learn more about the Lord Jesus Christ as we live for Him, we obtain valuable knowledge that bolsters our faith in Him.

The more that you learn about God, the more you will recognize God’s power in your life.

Knowledge of God is powerful.

As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, who wouldn’t want that?

In order to learn more about God, you have to be a student of God. A good student of God will search and seek after Him.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

Scripture encourages you to be a student of God. A student of God practices theology.

What is theology?

According to Roger Olson, “theology is any reflection on the ultimate questions of life that point toward God.” [2]

With this definition, I can make a broad, and perhaps even bold, declaration that a student of God practices theology; therefore, you, as believers, are all theologians!

Theology is very important for the believer, and it should be important because of what it means. It is the study of who God is, His attributes and His relationship with man and the universe. [3] The English word “theology” comes from two Greek terms: theos, meaning “God” and logos, which refers to “word,” “teaching,” or “study.” [4]

It stands to reason that studying who God is in your life provides you with knowledge and understanding that supports your faith and trust in God. It’s good for growth in your relationship with Him, and you learn about how to apply His Word, grow and endure as you move forward.

There must be a distinction, however, between Christian Theology, and theology from a worldly view. They both exist. Theology from the world’s perspective may indeed involve having questions about life and what that means in relationship to God, but that does not mean that the matter is given serious or prolonged thought–it may only be for a short period of time, or little more than cursory consideration. Some questions about life may be more substantive, such as “Why am I here?” or “What am I supposed to be doing?” or “Is there anything after death?” All of these are legitimate questions, but all of them will eventually lead to no real solution unless God is brought into the picture as the object that provides answers.

Christian theology goes much deeper. Anselm of Canterbury was archbishop of Canterbury and a great 12th Century theologian. He defined theology as “seeking to understand with the intellect what the heart–a person’s central core of character–already believes and to which it is committed.” [5] That’s a good way to describe the heart of a person who seeks understanding to support his faith.

Now that we have established a distinction between worldview theology and Christian theology, we need to consider the different levels of theology that exist within Christian theology, because all are not created equal.

There are real doctors and lawyers with degrees to support it, while there are actors that portray doctors and lawyers on television and in the movies. That doesn’t make them real doctors or lawyers. You wouldn’t let a doctor from Grey’s Anatomy perform surgery on you, would you? You also would not want an orthodontist to perform an appendectomy. You want the best available attorney representation instead of someone like the role actor Joe Pesci plays in the movie, My Cousin Vinny.

In the same sense, everyone is a theologian, but not everyone has the same theology. You may discover this as you speak to other people who attend church as you listen closely to what they really believe.

Many people, you may find, will not see the need for theology because it would hinder the understanding of the simple faith that a person has! It’s like saying the more you know about God from an intellectual perspective, the more that it would hurt your ability to have faith. This may sound strange to some of you, but this is a more popular belief than you may realize. The question “Who needs theology?” reflects a person’s view that one does not need a Master’s degree or a doctorate to help one understand God any more than we already do.

Some of you may remember when I spoke about Socrates, a philosopher, who declared, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” [6] He was absolutely correct. If we are serious about our relationship with Jesus Christ, there should always be an active, ongoing evaluation–a reflective look at one’s life in service to Him. If you are not actively seeking Him through His Word, meditating on it and prayerfully submitting to His will, how can one honestly know if God is speaking? A life in Jesus Christ is an active, reflective life.

With that in mind, we need to see how different theologies can be an indication of how reflective (or not) a person may be. A less reflective theology is referred to as “folk theology,” while the greatest level would be indicative of “academic theology.” In between the two are various levels of theology, defined by more or less reflective thought levels. [7] The levels are defined as folk, lay theology, ministerial theology, professional theology and then academic theology.

What is folk theology? It is a faith in God that is largely blind and based upon a traditional approach to Christianity. It is when a person states belief but cannot articulate it very well. In addition, there is a rejection of critical thinking about the belief and an acceptance of it based upon tradition, clichés and legends. [8]

Folk theology is everywhere. It can be found in virtually any setting. They are not adherents to any specific church affiliation, and they would not even consider themselves theological–yet, they are. Unfortunately, the traditionalism of this practice is contrary to any deep, careful reflection that allows a person to defend one’s faith, which is what the apostles had to do early on just years removed from Christ’s existence. A believer must be able to defend his faith in order to articulate his faith to a person who seeks the truth about Jesus Christ.

Lay theology is a step above folk theology but is, in reality, much more progressive in thought. It describes a Christian who works to understand the faith he or she holds in Jesus Christ. It is the act of putting one’s mind into the faith relationship. The root of this is in one’s seeking the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to gain this understanding.

Ministerial theology is a step above lay theology in that it now involves the teachable faith as practiced by trained ministers and leaders within Christian churches. This is the effort to put into practice formal training such as bible classes or even seminary classes to train people to learn how to read and interpret Scripture and apply it within the body of Christ and the real world.

Professional theology is best described as those persons who are qualified to train lay people and pastors to increase their knowledge. They are the ones who create an active and healthy learning environment that encourages critical thinking and reflection. They teach in seminaries and colleges with church affiliations to provide methods to be more effective in service to all people.

Academic theology is an advanced study that lends more to philosophical thinking shared with other theologians. As a practical matter, there is nothing wrong with academic theology, but its greatest criticism is that it lacks in application to real world Christian living. The challenge for the academic theologian is to reach beyond thought processes and provide ways to apply this thinking that are beneficial to lay, ministerial and professional theologians.

We’ve seen that anyone who seeks to answer the questions of life that point to God is a theologian. Knowing that there are different theologies, which one of these best describes you?

If you are honestly seeking His wisdom, you will grow well beyond those who are stuck in folk theology.

As you can see, the level of theology that is practiced has everything to do with the amount of time and effort that one puts into it. As you put your time into it, you will able to clarify and articulate Christian doctrine in a more effective manner [9] for the purpose of carrying out His Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).

All of the effort that you put forth in pursuing greater understanding of God and His Son, Jesus Christ, is very pleasing to Him! Why? It’s simple. Your pursuit of Him means that you are seeking fellowship with Him through five key elements to enhance your IMAGE [10] in Jesus Christ:

1. Investigating His Word. To really learn about Jesus Christ, you have to do more than just read His Word. You need to dig deep into it and use the available study tools, concordances and commentaries to promote greater understanding of His Word. You can hear God speak to you even more clearly once you pray to Him for guidance as you gain this understanding.

2. Meditate on His Word. Prayer is certainly important in your communication with Him, but meditating on His Word requires an extra special time of quietness and reflection. It means “slowing down” to a place where you recognize God’s comforting presence and fellowship, and allowing His Words to permeate you to see His perspective.

3. Act on His Word. Your theology will not mean very much if you are not living in obedience to God’s Word or conforming to His will. He speaks to you and gives you advice for your benefit and for the benefit of those who you come into contact with.

4. Grow in His Word. Your theological study should bring about true growth in your Christian life. There should be a realization of more successes and fewer failures as you progress in your faith and grow in godly wisdom and understanding.

5. Endure in your faith. A believer in Jesus Christ must be prepared to not only persevere but to remain steadfast in faith. It makes the boldest statements of Jesus Christ’s presence in your life.

Remember, knowledge of God requires seeking after Him. A good student of God will search and seek after Him. It takes godly wisdom and reverence of our Lord, Jesus Christ, to see the importance of continuing to grow in knowledge.

The mind of the discerning acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks it. Proverbs 18:15 (HCSB)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. Proverbs 9:10 (ESV)

Theology is needed by each and every one of us in order that we, as believers in Jesus Christ, can grow to our greatest potential in service to Him.

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the perception of your mind may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength. Ephesians 1:17-19 (HCSB)

Who needs theology? You do.

 

 

1 Article – Crime Rates Linked To Educational Attainment, New Alliance Report Finds (2013). © 2015 Alliance for Excellent Education, Washington DC. Retrieved June 12, 2015 from http://all4ed.org/press/crime-rates-linked-to-educational-attainment-new-alliance-report-finds/

2 Grenz, Stanley J. and Roger E. Olson. Who Needs Theology? An Invitation to the Study of God. © 1996 S. J. Grenz and R. E. Olson. Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove IL. pg. 13

3 Grenz, pg. 37

4 Grenz, pg. 14

5 Grenz, pg. 16

6 Grenz, pg. 26

7 Grenz, pg. 26

8 Grenz, pg. 27

9 Grenz, pg. 46

10 Blogpost – Gaines, Melvin (2015). Characteristics of Your IMAGE. Melvin Gaines’ Blogspot. Retrieved June 12, 2015 from http://melvingaines.blogspot.com/2015/04/characteristics-of-your-image.html

 

© Melvin Gaines

Does God Want Me to Stay in an Abusive Marriage?

07/24/2015 § Leave a comment

By Danni Moss (1964-2010)

A Repost from her blog “Because it Matters – Freedom from Abuse in Christianity”
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

This question was asked here and I know the person who asked it is one voice out of many, many more who are wondering the same thing. The answer is both simple and complex.

For the simple answer, God does not want you to remain in an abusive marriage. But before you run out the door, be sure you read the complex part of the answer, too.

Jesus stated the purpose of His coming in Luke 4: 18-19:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

Jesus came for the purpose of healing the brokenhearted, delivering captives, and liberating those who are bruised. That perfectly describes the condition of someone who is being abused in their marriage. Jesus came to rescue people from abusive relationships!

OK, I just heard a whole bunch of “wait a minute…” voices from readers. 😉 Go with me here a minute. The church has reduced Jesus’ purpose to saving souls from eternal damnation. Do you see that in this verse? Certainly it could be considered to be part of Jesus’ stated Luke 4 mission. But why do we limit Jesus’ purpose to less than what the Word plainly states?

Nowhere in the Word is there a place where God applauds or supports abuse. In fact, abuse is inherently opposite to God’s nature. If believers are made new creatures in Christ and partakers in His nature, how can we possible justify or excuse abusive behavior by someone bearing the name “Christian?”

If we assume an abusive spouse is not a believer (which may, in fact, be supportable by Scripture) is a Christian abused partner expected by God to remain in that abusive relationship? The answer is still no. A Christian does not enable another person to continue in sin. By remaining in an abusive marriage, a Christian sends the message that the abusive behavior is acceptable – and affirms the abusers sin.

Here comes the complex part, however. God does not want you to remain in an abusive marriage. But there is also a process for addressing the abuse. If there is physical violence, even just occasionally, an abused spouse needs to call local domestic violence support and carefully, but quickly, get outside the home into a safe place. In this situation, further Biblical steps need to occur from a position outside the same home as the abuser. If there is not physical danger, all but the final step of dealing with an abusive spouse can take place without physical separation.

So what are the steps to dealing with an abusive spouse?

First, I think we are all called to bring every detail of our lives to God for His insight and timing. Almost without exception (I’d say without exception but maybe there could be one) we need to clean our own slates first. As abused spouses we need to maintain first an attitude of, “Lord, change me.” God uses our difficult circumstances to teach us things we would not learn otherwise. So we must appreciate God’s process, even in exposing our own places that need to be refined and conforming us to the image of Christ while we are dealing with an abusive spouse.

Second, we have to maintain a humble spirit, remembering that God loves us all equally. It is easy to get a prideful and judgmental spirit. We have to remember that every person is created in the image of God, even this abuser, and so is worthy of basic human respect. Gal. 6:1 says,

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

Third, Matthew 18:15-17 outlines a very specific process for dealing with an offender, which would include marital abuse.

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

So we must first learn how to respectfully address the abuse within our marriage and establish correct boundaries. This is a learning process that can take months.

If the abusive spouse does not change when confronted privately, the abused spouse is to take a couple witnesses to confront the abuser again. These witnesses should be people the abuser respects and that the abused spouse can trust. At this point, I believe professional counseling is in order. A professional counselor can, in fact, be that witness. Another of the witnesses should be pastoral church leadership. This can be problematic because pastors don’t know how to address abuse correctly. But at least give the church the opportunity to do the right thing.

If abuse continues, the Word says the issue should be told to the church. This step is almost impossible to fulfill in the modern church. Pastors generally won’t allow it because they do not understand the Word on the subject. So, the abused spouse should attempt to press the pastor to allow this step, but if the pastor refuses, the abused spouse may need to move on to the final step.

The final step is removal from the relationship. Matthew 18 says to separate from the unrepentant offender. I Tim. 5:8 says a man who does not provide for his family (provision = financial, spiritual, emotional protection and leadership) has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. God calls an unrepentant abusive spouse an unbeliever. That is not my judgment; it is God’s. I Cor. 5:11 says believers are not to associate with, are not even to eat with, a person who is verbally abusive (“railer”). And I Cor. 7:13-15 says that if an unbelieving spouse removes (walks away from the marriage covenant – which can include staying in the house but leaving the relationship) himself from the marriage, the believing wife is to let him go. It may seem backwards for the believing wife to leave – but we have to remember that the “leaving” happens when a spouse does violence to his house (Mal. 2:13-16). The believing wife who removes to safety is not the one who abandoned the relationship.

Some will say removal from the relationship should be for an open-ended period of separation (which could be permanent if there is no repentance); others recommend divorce. I recommend you have a relationship with God whereby you allow Him to direct you because there is not a universal answer at this point. It may very well be that the only way to secure safe custody of children and spousal support for those children is through divorce. This is not out of line. And if the abusive spouse chooses to remarry that will certainly be the final nail in the door to possibility of reconciliation – a choice made by the abuser, not the victim of abuse who took the necessary, and Biblically supported, steps to address an abusive spouse.

God offers hope, not a lifetime sentence, to abuse victims. If you are in an abusive marriage you need to 1) get support for yourself that will stand by you throughout, 2) be willing to take the time to work through the Biblical process, and 3) stay on your face with God throughout the process, asking Him to change you. As hard as it is, this can be the fire that makes you into the person God desires you to be. It is hard and seems far too long in the process, but God is faithful and He does work all things together for good for those who love Him.

 

Copyright © Danni Moss

 

Mossman-Tucker, Danni (2009).  Does God Want Me to Stay in an Abusive Marriage? Weblog – Because it Matters – Freedom from Abuse in Christianity. Retrieved July 24, 2015 from https://dannimoss.wordpress.com/articles/abuse-in-the-christian-home/does-god-want-me-to-stay-in-an-abusive-marriage/

Who We Become in Christ

06/22/2015 § Leave a comment

God’s desire for us is to live an abundant life. It is a life not with promises of perfect health and riches, but a life that understands the relevance of Christ’s presence and a desire to be more faithful and obedient to Him. Our riches are not physical. They are in the abundance of living a life for Jesus Christ. [1] In our living this abundant life, we develop the mind of Christ and perform acts of ministry to others in worship to Him and in praise for Him.

As believers and followers of Jesus Christ, we receive the aid of the Holy Spirit who provides us with the desire to want to serve Him. We want to please Him often before we know how to do so. The enthusiasm of a new life in Christ is present (2 Corinthians 5:17), but the challenge is to build upon the enthusiasm with the actions that we believe are best in line with His will and purpose for our lives.

This is also true for “fifty-somethings” like me who have known Jesus for over twenty years. I have encouraged my church Sunday school class and congregation to always remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit as you submit your life to Him in prayer as to your focus within the body of Christ and in ministry as to your purpose. Everyone is born with at least one talent. The prayer is that God reveals to you all of your talents, abilities AND your spiritual gifts that He gives to you as you became a believer in Christ. You have to seek His wisdom and guidance in this area to reach your fullest potential.

Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life helped its readers to recognize that each person created by God has a purpose. As we read Warren’s first words of the book, “It’s not about you,” [2] it is apparent that our lives are not our own as much as we would like. We are often confronted with the reality that what we are doing in our vocational work or even within our actions in church is inadequate as we reckon with God’s calling for our lives.

The most important things that a person can do to resolve this issue include the ongoing development of one’s relationship with Jesus Christ. There must be a closeness with Christ in order to be in tune with His will and desires for you to be fulfilled. Of course, Satan and his agents will put up all sorts of opposition or obstacles that will keep you from developing this closeness. Your busyness will challenge your ability to focus on Jesus Christ, but your efforts to remain steadfast with Him and in Him makes you Satan’s enemy. Thankfully, you have the power of the conquering Holy Spirit who will cling to you and provide protection (Isaiah 54:17).

It begins with communication–His Word speaks to you and you respond in prayer. An in-depth review of His communication with you requires the quietness of meditation. From there, you can live with the confidence that God will provide direction for you as you grow in your relationship.

There may be a change of path in your vocation or even your career of service as you navigate through life, but there is nothing better than receiving the directions from the guiding hands of Jesus Christ as you move forward.

 

1 Article – John 10:10 – The Abundant Life (2000). Grace Communion International. © 2015 Grace Communion International. Retrieved June 18, 2015 from https://www.gci.org/bible/john1010

2 Warren, Richard (2002). The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth am I Here For? Copyright © 2002, 2011, 2012 by Rick Warren. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI., pg. 21