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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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

Characteristics of Your IMAGE

04/24/2015 § Leave a comment

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.  (Genesis 1:26-27 HCSB)

When God created mankind, He created us in His image.  He did this with the intent of His creation to be in His likeness (James 3:9b).  His will for His people are to live in a manner that is praiseworthy and devoted in worship to Him.  Man’s image was to be the glory of God, and a woman, created as man’s helpmate, was intended to be the glory of man (1 Corinthians 11:7), and both, in this image and in worship, are to honor the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 8:23).   With this, man has a responsibility to live in a manner that is worthy of His creation.  With your belief in Jesus Christ as Savior, He restores you to the place where God intended for you to be—as a person who is under grace and as a new creation in Him (John 1:13; 2 Corinthians 5:17).  In the same way you were created in his image, it is His will for you to live in this manner as a new creation.  Christ’s sacrifice for you should compel you to put off your old nature of sin and put on the new nature and character of Christ (Romans 6:6-7, 11-12).  Your image in Jesus Christ is all about the change taking place in your spiritual character (Ephesians 4:24; 1 Peter 1:16).

A believer who is fully engaged in his or her relationship with Jesus Christ is going to be a dynamically effective witness for Jesus Christ.  It is the perception of the believer’s interaction with others that provides the impact of the gospel of Jesus Christ; therefore, a believer’s image is what people see (and need to see—whether you are interacting with non-believers as a testimony or with believers as a person of support and encouragement).  It is this image that is the complete makeup of a believer who wants to be more than just salt and light—a bright, seasoned witness for Jesus!

The believer’s image is extremely important in three different areas:

1.)  It builds and develops the person’s relationship with God

2.)  It builds and develops the person’s self-worth and self esteem

3.)  It builds and develops confidence to interact with others in multiple scenarios and circumstances

I will use the word “IMAGE” as an acrostic word comprising what a believer in Jesus Christ needs to do with a consistent fervor to grow in Christ and be a dynamic testimony before others.

There are five elements that we will study that make up the word IMAGE in this endeavor.  In order to develop and maintain your IMAGE before others:

I – Investigate the Word of God

The development of a believer must begin with the appropriate time and effort devoted to bible reading.  Even as you are developing a routine for bible reading each day, the proper development of the image of the believer must have progression in this process—the progression must continue in the achievement of levels to where you are no longer just reading the bible, but you are investigating what scripture has to say to you.

Your success as an investigator includes:

  1. Reading the bible daily
  2. Reading at a predetermined time as part of a regular schedule
  3. Using external biblical resources to complement your study (for example, using a Greek and Hebrew reference, concordance and/or study bible with commentary)

Investigate (v.) – to observe or study by close examination and systematic inquiry (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

M – Meditate on the Word of God

(Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10)

Christian meditation is a form of prayer in which a structured attempt is made to become aware of and reflect upon the revelations of God.[1]  Christian meditation is the process of deliberately focusing on specific thoughts (such as a bible passage) and reflecting on their meaning in the context of the love of God. [2]

Meditation is reflection, consistent prayer and practice that promote greater understanding and wisdom in the application of God’s Word.

A – Act (Application of God’s Word)

The act portion of your IMAGE involves taking action upon what you have learned in your investigation and mediation of God’s Word.  Taking action or applying God’s Word involves four key lifestyle elements of your faith in Jesus Christ:

  1. Repentance upon acknowledgment of sin to restore immediate fellowship with Jesus Christ (Matthew 3:8; Acts 3:19)
  2. Compliance with God’s will in your life (John 7:17)
  3. A desire to improve and please God (Colossians 3:15)
  4. Greater consistency in Christlike behaviors (Psalm 119:101-106; Romans 12:1-2)

We act upon God’s Word and His will because we are His specially chosen people, and we desire to maintain a special relationship with Him (Ephesians 2:10; Psalm 37:23-24, 73:23-24)

G – Grow

Growing in Jesus Christ is the natural progression of a healthy, vibrant relationship with Him (Ephesians 3:17-19, 4:11-15)

Growth is measured in the following:

  1. Continuing achievement of maturity in Christ
  2. Hearing and knowing when God is speaking to you
  3. Increased sensitivity to matters of the Holy Spirit
  4. Greater focus and determination

E – Endure

Bearing all things that occur in the faith with an understanding of the big picture–the love of Christ is exhibited for all to see and that Jesus Christ is glorified (Romans 5:1-5; 1 Corinthians 13:7; James 1:2-4).

Jesus wants you to not only persevere but to remain steadfast in your faith and retain boldness in your faith (in words and in your demeanor before others). It is your steadfastness that makes the boldest statements of Jesus Christ’s presence in your life.

Keep your attention on Jesus Christ as risen from the dead and descended from David. This is according to my gospel.  I suffer for it to the point of being bound like a criminal, but God’s message is not bound. This is why I endure all things for the elect: so that they also may obtain salvation, which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.  This saying is trustworthy:

For if we have died with Him,

we will also live with Him;

if we endure, we will also reign with Him.  (2 Timothy 2:8-12a HCSB)

1 Christian Meditation for Beginners by Thomas Zanzig, Marilyn Kielbasa 2000, ISBN 0-88489-361-8 page 7

2  An introduction to Christian spirituality by F. Antonisamy, 2000 ISBN 81-7109-425-5, pages 76-77

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

The Myopic Believer

04/27/2014 § Leave a comment

A message summary at Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, April 27, 2014:

When it comes to eyesight, your ability to see changes as you get older.  For example, objects close up are clear, while objects far away can be very blurry.  This is nearsightedness.  Myopia is the clinical term for nearsightedness, which means you can’t see far away.

How does this pertain to a person who is a believer?  It has to do with your faith.  There is only faith in what is seen, but what about faith when things are unseen or unknown?

What is faith?

Hebrews 11:1-2

1 Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. 2 For our ancestors won God’s approval by it.

 

Our entire relationship in Jesus Christ is based upon faith…believing in the promises of God for salvation and eternal life. Without faith, we cannot experience any security in where we are today and where we will go when we leave here.  If you choose to live for the moment and fail to see the importance of what will come in the future, you are not relying on any hope or promises that Jesus offers.  Think about this as you live your life.  If you are living a life where there is a lack of confidence in where you stand, it has an effect on how you are living and how others see you.

Without faith, every believer reverts to a place that is most familiar—the flesh.  In the flesh, you can’t see what is in the distance.  You can only see what is in front of you.  It is the opposite of having faith.  In the flesh, we are myopic.

Symptoms of myopia in a believer:

 

1. Hidden or spoiled fruits (of the Spirit)

Galatians 5:19-25 (HCSB)

19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance—as I told you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit.

 

Your flesh will prevent the Spirit from operating in your life.

Your flesh will hide the fruits of the Spirit.

Your flesh will spoil your fruits.

 

2. Short on faithing and long on complaining

1 Peter 4:8-10 (HCSB)

8 Above all, maintain an intense love for each other, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God.

 

3. Missed blessings mean missed opportunities

Deuteronomy 28:1-10 (HCSB)

Blessings for Obedience

1 “Now if you faithfully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all His commands I am giving you today, the Lord your God will put you far above all the nations of the earth. 2 All these blessings will come and overtake you, because you obey the Lord your God: 

3 You will be blessed in the city

and blessed in the country.

4 Your descendants will be blessed,

and your land’s produce,

and the offspring of your livestock,

including the young of your herds

and the newborn of your flocks.

5 Your basket and kneading bowl will be blessed.

6 You will be blessed when you come in

and blessed when you go out.

7 “The Lord will cause the enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you. They will march out against you from one direction but flee from you in seven directions. 8 The Lord will grant you a blessing on your storehouses and on everything you do; He will bless you in the land the Lord your God is giving you. 9 The Lord will establish you as His holy people, as He swore to you, if you obey the commands of the Lord your God and walk in His ways. 10 Then all the peoples of the earth will see that you are called by Yahweh’s name, and they will stand in awe of you.

 

Deuteronomy 28:65-67

65 You will find no peace among those nations, and there will be no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the Lord will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and a despondent spirit. 66 Your life will hang in doubt before you. You will be in dread night and day, never certain of survival. 67 In the morning you will say, ‘If only it were evening!’ and in the evening you will say, ‘If only it were morning!’—because of the dread you will have in your heart and because of what you will see.

 

Here’s the problem—if these are your attributes—hidden or spoiled fruits, complaining, and unappreciative—what do other people see in you where they can be encouraged?

A believer’s actions must be evident to others in ways that are deemed to be Christlike.  Anything less is inadequate as a believer.  This myopic behavior, left untreated, can be disastrous in the long term.

God is aware of this condition and its treatment.  It’s up to the person to opt for a prescription, which begins with a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.  He wants you to have more as a believer than plain old fire insurance.

Escape through fire…

1 Corinthians 3:14-16 (HCSB)

14 If anyone’s work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, it will be lost, but he will be saved; yet it will be like an escape through fire.

16 Don’t you yourselves know that you are God’s sanctuary and that the Spirit of God lives in you?

 

But don’t think you get a pass even in this area…God knows your heart and will call you out if you haven’t been honest with yourself…

Ezekiel 15:6-8 (HCSB)

6 “Therefore, this is what the Lord God says: Like the wood of the vine among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire as fuel, so I will give up the residents of Jerusalem. 7 I will turn against them. They may have escaped from the fire, but it will still consume them. And you will know that I am Yahweh when I turn against them. 8 I will make the land desolate because they have acted unfaithfully.” This is the declaration of the Lord God.

 

Your prescription for myopia as a believer:

Work on your IMAGE

Investigate – not just read the Bible, but investigate the contents of it–study and learn His Word.

Meditate – not just prayer, but meditate on the Word day and night. Discover how God is speaking to you.

Apply – Taking God’s Word and applying it to your life on a daily basis.  Knowing the Word is not enough–applying it means much more.

Grow – Learning to grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ each day and grow in your knowledge of Him.

Endure – To endure is to be able to effectively withstand any opposition that you face; especially the opposition of the enemy.

 

Ephesians 6:13-18 (HCSB)

13 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. 14 Stand, therefore,

with truth like a belt around your waist,

righteousness like armor on your chest,

15 and your feet sandaled with readiness

for the gospel of peace.

16 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.

17 Take the helmet of salvation,

and the sword of the Spirit,

which is God’s word.

18 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.

The prescription for a myopic believer begins with a better relationship with the One who saved you in the beginning–Jesus Christ. He helps you in the power of the Holy Spirit in how to live life after salvation.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

Spring Break 2013 is April 19-20 in Stow OH

04/02/2013 § Leave a comment

Our Annual Relationship Conference Series takes an exciting approach that will not just grow but enhance your relationship with God through Jesus Christ!  You’ll be not just salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16), you’ll be–

Melvin Gaines, Host

Seasoning with Brightness!

A special weekend retreat where you can rest, relax, renew and recharge!

Now, more than ever, it is vital to grow in your personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ!  Your growth in Christ will help you communicate with Him at a high level, and will also help you to make a greater impact in your daily ministry with others!  We are called to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16), but you can become more seasoned and brighter than ever as you grow into the best relationship with Jesus ever!  We will provide tools to hep you develop effective, daily habits of prayer and meditation to grow and learn much more of what God has in store for you!

With your participation, this relationship seminar promises to be a fun, relaxing and fulfilling experience!  Singles and married couples are welcome!  The event is free and open to the public.

Note:  You do NOT need to stay at the hotel to attend the seminar.  The seminar is free.  Call 234.206.0345 for more information and start times.

Friday, April 19 and Saturday, April 20, 2013

Hampton Inn, Stow OH

4331 Lakepointe Corporate Drive   •  330.945.4160

Special room rate for overnight stay only $79.00 plus tax.  If you are interested in staying at the hotel, please call and check for availability.  When booking your room ask for the Akron Alliance Fellowship Church special rate.  A free hot breakfast is available for hotel guests.  Don’t wait another day–be sure to register today!

Free internet  •  pool  •  fitness center  •  comfortable amenities  •  newly remodeled  •  restaurants nearby

Discernment is a Godly Attribute

07/15/2012 § Leave a comment

In an election year, there are dozens of radio ads and television commercials that air to provide information for the voting public.  The commercials are a blend of opposing views that run early and often on a daily basis up until Election Day.  The intent of these advertisements is to do one thing and one thing only…to persuade the listener or viewer to choose the side representing their position.  These ads are never vague or unclear as to what side is represented because the information tips the scales in the favor of the group who is sponsoring the commercial.

In the midst of these commercials are elements of truth and areas where the truth is stretched in varying degrees.  Remember, the sponsor of the commercial is trying to get your vote or even affirm your vote for their side, and there is often a creative license that is taken in order to make their position more appealing or to convince you to despise the opposing view, which inevitably brings you back to their view.

What the advertisers count on with these ads is that the casual observer will not go through the trouble or the burden to educate oneself and do research to see if the information has merit.  They know very well that their ads are effective in their impact with the public because many people will either rely upon the information as being true or a close match with their ideology, and that many will not go through the fact-checking process.  The civic-minded voter, however, readily assumes the responsibility to take the time to review any available information about the candidates and issues at hand.  He or she desires information and education as to what is at stake in the election.  After all of the information is gathered and disseminated, exercising discernment that leads to the final decision in the voting booth.  Discernment is the key word…it is the ability to judge well.

Discernment is more than simply possessing good judgment or referring to your conscience.  It, for our purposes today, also means to have the ability to review something and determine its truthfulness or its viability.  It is something that each of us should possess within our evaluation process, but you may know someone who has the uncanny ability to “see through” and make conclusions about situations with what seems to be the least amount of information.  It is not something that should be seen as “mystical” or as being something that someone would have in a special sense when it comes to ability.  All of us can discern and make judgments.  Let’s instead focus on the importance of discernment when it comes to recognizing truth and error in the presentation of God’s Word.  Are you able to discern what is being presented?  In the same way that political ads work well, especially with their repetitive nature, many people are ill-prepared to deal with false doctrine or false presentations of the gospel because they don’t take the time to review the information properly.  It’s like taking a test in school without studying for it…it often doesn’t go well in the end results.

If you lack the appropriate information, you are unlikely to be able to make the appropriate conclusions in your discernment efforts.  This leaves one wide open to deception and someone telling you anything that can lead you astray, which is very, very dangerous.

Hosea 4:6

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. 

Colossians 2:8

Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ.

Proverbs 15:14

A discerning mind seeks knowledge, 
but the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness.

Acts 17:11

The people here were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, since they welcomed the message with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

OK…so discernment is important and some of us seem to have a better time of it than others.  These are the people that can readily provide us with godly advice when it seems to matter most.  You may be asking yourself…”What if I am lacking in my ability to discern?  What can I do about it?”  The answers lie in understanding some truths about discernment.  Discernment is a godly attribute, and it requires God’s participation within the process.

  • Discernment requires godly knowledge…knowing the Bible.

Philippians 1:9-10

And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment10 so that you can approve the things that are superior and can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.

  • Discernment requires prayer and actively seeking God

The more that you are seeking God and being prayerful for wisdom and insight, the more that God will make plain to you those things that seemed to be elusive to you in the past.  You can develop your ability to discern, but it requires completeness in your trust that God is giving you exactly what you need when you need it.

Some have made the argument that discernment is a spiritual gift, and by reviewing Scripture, we can make a case that it is not a “special” gift in itself, and we also can find in Scripture that some persons have a special ability to discern, or judge, about certain spirits:

First, the example that people who possess the Holy Spirit already have discernment capabilities:

1 Corinthians 2:10-16

10 Now God has revealed these things to us by the Spirit, for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man that is in him? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God. 13 We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people.14 But the unbeliever does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually. 15 The spiritual person, however, can evaluate everything, yet he himself cannot be evaluated by anyone. 16 For

who has known the Lord’s mind,
that he may instruct Him?

But we have the mind of Christ.

Second, here is a passage that shows how God can enable some of His saints to possess a gift of discernment:

1 Corinthians 12:4-11

Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different ministries, but the same Lord. And there are different activities, but the same God activates each gift in each person. A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial:

to one is given a message of wisdom 
through the Spirit,
to another, a message of knowledge
by the same Spirit,
to another, faith by the same Spirit,
to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit,
10 to another, the performing of miracles,
to another, prophecy,
to another, distinguishing between spirits,
to another, different kinds of languages,
to another, interpretation of languages.

11 But one and the same Spirit is active in all these, distributing to each person as He wills.

To have discernment of distinguish about spirits is necessary in the growth and maturity of a believer in Jesus Christ.  Here is a how-to guide as to what all of us should be able to do if we are paying attention to the Holy Spirit that speaks from within:

1 John 4:1-6

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. But every spirit who does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist; you have heard that he is coming, and he is already in the world now.

You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world. Therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Anyone who knows God listens to us; anyone who is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deception.

We are counseled throughout Scripture, in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, to test the spirits (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).  We need to test them because they certainly test every believer.  They come in all forms from the opposition, and it is nothing to joke around with or play with.

Ephesians 6:11-13

11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.12 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. 13 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.

Therefore, we are to be smart about our encounters with the opposition—not in a way that diminishes your testimony for Christ; instead, using the power of the Holy Spirit to do the work while you speak.

Matthew 10:16

 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

Final point—

  • Discernment also comes from the counsel of others when seeking advice.

Proverbs 19:20-21

20 Listen to counsel and receive instruction
so that you may be wise later in life.

21 Many plans are in a man’s heart,
but the 
Lord’s decree will prevail.

It’s wise and just plain smart to get advice from people who are knowledgeable, especially in subjects where you don’t have it.  The Spirit even guides you in this area.  It’s also wise to seek the counsel and take the other person’s sound advice.  It’s silly to ask opinions over and over again and never take the advice.  As you obtain knowledge, you should be able to come to a satisfactory conclusion as you discern what the appropriate outcome or ending should be.  When God provides you with wise counsel, take it.

Discernment is the essence of wisdom and understanding in Jesus Christ.  Here are some important takeaways:

  1. It is provided through the power of the Holy Spirit for every believer
  2. It requires a healthy understanding of the Bible
  3. It requires prayerful consideration and appeals to godly wisdom in the process
  4. It relies upon the testimony of wise counsel

All of this leads back to a proverb that is well-known and recognized…the Spirit provides the guidance that all of us need, and we choose to follow His leading rather than let our way of thinking keep us from using the proper discernment.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.

Measuring Progress in the Quality of Your Christian Life

02/13/2010 § 1 Comment

The following is a summary and commentary of a sermon that I presented to Akron Alliance Fellowship Church in 2005.  It features a review of the blind man who was healed by Jesus Christ as narrated in the book of John, Chapter 9.

As our church is embarking upon a revival this coming week, is participating in an extended book study in Sunday school on The Purpose-Driven® Life, and has adopted the “Growing a Healthy Church” motto, it only makes sense that each of us who attends our church on a regular basis who is concerned with the scope and direction of our church will have a natural concern with where he or she is in their own relationship with Jesus Christ.

It also makes sense for the person to look at their own relationship with Christ as a natural way to measure your progress in your faith in Christ, and in your relationships and daily interactions as a believer in Jesus Christ.  Have you recently reflected as to where you are right now in your relationship with Christ?  Scripture strongly implies that it is a natural progression if you are growing in your relationship with Christ according to Hebrews 5:12-14:

Hebrews 5:12-14

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of God’s revelation. You need milk, not solid food. Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about righteousness, because he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature—for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil.

Here are questions that you should honestly ask yourself…

  • Can you honestly say to yourself that you are making progress in your relationship with Jesus Christ?
  • If others were to observe your behavior, or even comment on it, would they see a progression in your relationship with Christ?

If you have not reflected on either of these questions, then how do you know where you are?  As a member of the body of Christ and Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, there is a natural hindrance to getting anything meaningful out of bible studies, or being an effective part of a fellowship if you are having a prolonged personal struggle with who you are in your relationship with Jesus Christ.

As our church is moving forward, our ministry is taking shape in different areas, and as change occurs, you must prepare yourself for what your defining role is as a member of the body of Christ.  In determining your defining role, it is not enough to ask yourself if you are merely a participant.  Some believers may go their entire lives trying to determine what their role is, and even what their spiritual gifts are.  If you do not know what your role is and what your gifts are, then how can you possibly know who you are in your relationship with a church, with other members in the body of Christ, and as to how much you have progressed as a believer?

It is time to start asking ourselves the questions that maybe we have avoided until now.  Fear of the unknown will sometimes keep us in a paralysis of not looking at where we are and how we can improve ourselves.  Perhaps we are fearful of what others will say about us…who knows?  I do know that Satan would prefer that each of us never reach our full potential as believers.  I also know that Satan is the greatest liar of all time (John 8:44).  Is it easier for us to believe Satan’s lies, or to trust in the Lord?

If we are to accurately assess where we are in our fellowship with God through Jesus Christ, we need to be able to measure our progress in the quality of our Christian life.  It is not a difficult process to measure where we are, as there are basic tenets that we must use in determining where we are in this area.  You may add some points within these basic doctrines, but I have examined three particular areas that should be at the forefront of any measurement of our assessment.

1. Your level of obedience to God through His Word

2. Growing with the knowledge of God through His Word

3. Peaking with understanding of God and His Word

Notice that all of these points refer very specifically to God’s Word in your life.  How do we know about God, and how did we learn about God in the first place?  We had to have some sort of exposure to God’s Word.  How did we come to know Jesus Christ as personal savior?  We learned about the Good News through exposure and reflection upon God’s Word.  How do we learn more about what God’s Word has to say to us?  By reading and studying God’s Word on a regular basis.  This is how God communicates with us…through His Word.  We reciprocate to God by communicating with Him in prayer.

2 Chronicles 7:14

…and My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.

How does this correlate with the quality of your Christian life, or as some would say, the abundant life?  The answer may seem overly simple to you, but think about this regarding point number 1…all that God wants from us is our obedience to His Word.  The only way that we can love God is to be obedient to His Word (Exodus 20:6, Deuteronomy 5:10, Psalm 1:1-2, Psalm 25:10, Psalm 112:1).

If you are regularly practicing obedience to God’s Word, it stands to reason that God will respond to you with blessings as a result of your obedience.   The bottom line is that your obedience to His Word assures you that you are in fellowship with Him.  Your prayers are likely to be heard by him and answered by Him.  The residual effect of this obedience and the resulting ongoing fellowship with God is that God’s love for you, which has already been declared in his creation of you and His love for you in Jesus Christ in His plan of salvation for you will become more and more visible in your daily walk in faith.  You will, as a result of His love, love Him in return and have a greater desire to want to be obedient to Him.  It is a love relationship that can grow, as long as we do not inhibit it with sin or other forms of disobedience, beyond any sort of words or description that we can possibly come up with.

God’s desire for us is to be obedient to His Word.  That is where the process of beginning to measure progress in the quality of your Christian life begins.  Let’s examine the process take place in Scripture by looking at the man who was born blind.  The points mentioned before are demonstrated in Scripture in John 9:1-41.

John 9:1-5

As He was passing by, He saw a man blind from birth. His disciples questioned Him: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” Jesus answered. “This came about so that God’s works might be displayed in him. We must do the works of Him who sent Me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Please note that God uses situations involving His people specifically for His glory and fulfillment of his purpose; a matter of His sovereignty.

John 9:6-7

After He said these things He spit on the ground, made some mud from the saliva, and spread the mud on his eyes. “Go,” He told him, “wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means “Sent”). So he left, washed, and came back seeing.

Here is a demonstration of an act of obedience…a simple act and yet here is how God began the process of using the situation for His glory.  It starts with our obedience to His Word, and our growth in fellowship with Him cannot help but grow accordingly.

John 9:8-12

His neighbors and those who formerly had seen him as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the man who sat begging?” Some said, “He’s the one.” “No,” others were saying, “but he looks like him.” He kept saying, “I’m the one!” Therefore they asked him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So when I went and washed I received my sight.” “Where is He?” they asked. “I don’t know,” he said.

Note from this text – here are the man’s neighbors asking questions about what really happened, and it appears that some of them were ready to report the matter to the Pharisees because of Jesus’ performing the healing on a Sabbath.

John 9:13-16

They brought the man who used to be blind to the Pharisees.  The day that Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes was a Sabbath. So again the Pharisees asked him how he received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” he told them. “I washed and I can see.” Therefore some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for He doesn’t keep the Sabbath!” But others were saying, “How can a sinful man perform such signs?” And there was a division among them.

This leads to our second point – Growing with knowledge (2 Peter 1:5-11 — contrast with Hosea 4:6, Romans 1:28-32).

Note the number of questions about Jesus’ legitimacy after the man described again what had happened.  Where is the confusion and division coming from here?  Satan wants to distract us from being obedient to God and getting us off track when others around us start shouting loud and long about the legitimacy of Jesus Christ.  A word to the wise – do not listen to those voices and stay focused, just as the man does in this text.  Only by staying focused can you continue on in the next step, growing with knowledge.

John 9:24-34

So a second time they summoned the man who had been blind and told him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner!” He answered, “Whether or not He’s a sinner, I don’t know. One thing I do know: I was blind, and now I can see!” Then they asked him, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” “I already told you,” he said, “and you didn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again? You don’t want to become His disciples too, do you?” They ridiculed him: “You’re that man’s disciple, but we’re Moses’ disciples. We know that God has spoken to Moses. But this man—we don’t know where He’s from!” “This is an amazing thing,” the man told them. “You don’t know where He is from, yet He opened my eyes! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He listens to him. Throughout history no one has ever heard of someone opening the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He wouldn’t be able to do anything.” “You were born entirely in sin,” they replied, “and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out.

The man was now speaking based upon his own experience and the knowledge and logic that he has about who Jesus is, and how he stood his ground in the face of the Pharisees, even though his parents were fearful (refer to verses 17-23).  God will give us the ability to stand our ground if we remain confident in Him and in the knowledge that he gives to us when we speak the truth about Him.  How confident are you in speaking up about Christ when you have the opportunity?

Acts 28:31

…proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with full boldness and without hindrance.

Hebrews 3:6

But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household, whose household we are if we hold on to the courage and the confidence of our hope.

With knowledge comes power.

John 9:35-38

When Jesus heard that they had thrown the man out, He found him and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” “Who is He, Sir, that I may believe in Him?” he asked. Jesus answered, “You have seen Him; in fact, He is the One speaking with you.” “I believe, Lord!” he said, and he worshiped Him.

Notice how Jesus finds the man and reaffirms him by asking him if he believes in Him.  This is much the same as how Jesus proclaims that he will never leave us nor forsake us.

Matthew 28:18-20

Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The man now worships Jesus once he realizes who he is speaking to and who he is.  He now has greater understanding after being obedient and growing in knowledge through the experience.

Now comes point number 3 – Progress is made through greater understanding of who He is.  As you read God’s Word, you become stronger in your faith, and you begin to see God’s glory in all things.  The greater understanding now leads to growth and progress in your spiritual walk.  It is a natural progression of your faith if you will only act with obedience and gain knowledge.  With this progression in faith comes a peace and feeling of joy that is indescribable.

Psalm 29:11

The Lord gives His people strength; the Lord blesses His people with peace.

Psalm 32:7

You are my hiding place; You protect me from trouble. You surround me with joyful shouts of deliverance.

Philippians 4:7

And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This gradual progression in measuring progress can be hindered if points 1 through 3 are not followed.  You cannot effectively get to the 3rd point if you are struggling with the 2nd point, and so forth.  Ask yourself about this three step process and determine if the quality of your Christian life can be improved.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. For more content, please see melvingaines.com and melvingaines.blogspot.com.

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