Walking in What?

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 John 1:5-6)

No one dealt more directly in their writing about what should be the character of a Christian than the apostle John. The Bible doesn’t teach that we should be in constant doubt of our salvation, but it also does not teach that a life devoid of obedience to the will of God is testimony of saving faith.

In the first chapter of 1 John, the apostle uses light and darkness to contrast those who are real versus those who aren’t. In Scripture, “light” refers to biblical truth whereas “darkness” signifies error.  When we walk in light (in truth and holiness), we affirm God’s work in us. When we walk in darkness (in sin), we affirm the opposite.

The apostle John doesn’t pull any punches in his letters. The truths about character and faith are ones we must confront. He was not alone in his teaching that sin cannot be the pattern of our lives if our testimonies are to be true. The apostle Paul spoke clearly on this issue as well (Romans 6:1-2). Though sin will be an ever present enemy and a tool Satan will use against us, our union with Christ and the Holy Spirit’s presence in us has broken its power. The Bible tells us that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). At the same time it says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Our pattern of life should always be consistent with our profession.

So, what is the pattern of your life? Are you moving more and more toward Christ? Though never perfect, is your heart set to do God’s will? Let us examine our lives to see if our practices line up with what we say we believe. And let our hearts long for obedience to the will of God in response to His magnificent grace.

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Point, Reflect and Pray

“…so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments; and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God” (Psalm 78:7-8)

I believe most us as parents would love nothing more than for our children to avoid the mistakes of our past. Part of the purpose of Psalm 78 was just that, to help future generations learn from the past in order to avoid mistakes made by previous ones. In spite of all the Lord had done, the Jewish people were quite stubborn. Many took God’s faithfulness for granted, acted in disobedience and suffered harsh consequences as a result. In the early portion of Psalm 78, the psalmist recounts the events of the past in order to instruct the current generation. A main emphasis made in this section was for the current and future generations to trust God and faithfully obey His will in response to His faithfulness toward them (v. 7-8).

As parents, we bear the responsibility for teaching our children Christian values. Admittedly, it is a difficult task given the “values-neutral” culture in which we live. Everywhere we turn, there’s an assault on Christian values, but that does not lessen the needed commitment to teach them to our children. In his commentary, James Boice writes that parents “should struggle to make sure that our children are taught morality grounded in the character of God and supported by the life and power of our Savior Jesus Christ”.

For me, there have been times when I’ve felt I hadn’t done enough to prepare my children to meet their next phase of life, things I didn’t pray about or emphasize enough in my teaching. Right now is one of those times. In less than a week, we will take Logan to Auburn as he begins the next phase of his life. College will bring about a whole host of challenges to a young person’s walk of faith. Their being grounded in the Word of God is critical. I remember the temptations that the newly found freedom of college life brought me. I also remember succumbing to many of those temptations. I guess that’s why it’s so prominent on my mind right now.

Being a Christian doesn’t lessen the temptations we face. Sometimes it increases them. And unfortunately, there are times, no matter how strong our faith may be, that we give in to them. I pray Logan won’t, but if he does, I pray that the Lord will spare him from any lasting consequences as a result. I’m a little uncomfortable saying that because it seems as if I’m saying that giving into sin is okay. It’s not. God is holy. He hates sin, any sin. But thankfully God is also patient, He loves us and His grace is always greater than our sin. At the end of the day, I’m left to trust Logan to walk his own Christian walk. I know the Lord will be walking with him. It’s easy to let times like these make you feel inadequate as a parent, perhaps even questioning whether you have properly fulfilled your role in training your child to live out their faith. I believe the inadequacy we feel in these times is God’s way of growing us, teaching us to trust Him more. Let our hearts be open to learn.

So, as Logan leaves, I’m left to do what has been my primary responsibility all along. I am to point, reflect and pray. First, I am to point to Jesus Christ and His perfect work on the cross. Jesus alone changes hearts. Secondly, I am to reflect the work of Christ in my own life. Though we never do this perfectly, we are to do it consistently. Our example matters. And lastly, I am to pray; pray that Logan would avoid some of the same mistakes I made, pray these next years would be some of his greatest, pray that obedience to God’s will would be his heart’s desire and pray that he would find the Lord’s presence to be his greatest need.

Why Understanding the Doctrine of Sanctification Matters

“…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13)

Regeneration is an act by which God renews the human heart. We often hear it expressed as being “born again”, “made alive” or “made new”. Regeneration’s natural progression is to faith and repentance on the part of man. Justification is to be declared not guilty, to have a right legal standing before God because Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to us. Author and theologian, John Murray says “regeneration is an act of God in us, whereas justification is a judgment of God with respect to us.” Regeneration, justification and our adoption into God’s family is a work of God’s grace alone. Though not the primary subject here, these doctrines are important to our understanding the doctrine of sanctification and why understanding it matters.

So What is Sanctification?

In his book, Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem defines sanctification as a work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives. Sanctification is viewed in two ways: First, having been “set apart” for God’s holy purpose, it is viewed as a past event. This is referred to as positional sanctification. Secondly, sanctification is viewed as a continual transformation over time. This has been termed progressive sanctification. It is important for us to understand the difference. As a Christian, our position before God is perfect. When He looks at us, He sees the righteousness of Christ that has been placed on us. However, God also knows we are a work in progress. He knows that  in this life we will never be perfect, but that by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit we are being transformed more and more into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). This transformation will not end until glory.

How Understanding Sanctification Helps Us in Our Christian Walk

So, why does understanding the doctrine of sanctification matter? There are several reasons: First, it helps to keep us from being defeated by our sin. On the cross, Jesus dealt with sin for all time—past, present and future. Understanding that there is a progressive aspect to our spiritual maturity helps to keep us from being overwhelmed by guilt that results from sin. We are never perfect in this life. It’s not that we don’t want to be, and shouldn’t want to be. And it’s not to make light of sin. It’s just how it is. Satan would love for us to be consumed with guilt because it has the potential of rendering us ineffective in gospel ministry. Remember, Jesus took the sin and all that goes with it.

Secondly, understanding the doctrine of sanctification makes us more effective as we minister in that it helps us to be more patient with others. People are always at different places in their walk with Christ and understanding that there is an ongoing spiritual progression in each of us allows us to meet people where they are, to better understand them and encourage them as they grow in grace.

Lastly, understanding the doctrine of sanctification brings glory to God. Doctrines aren’t taught to bring confusion, but to lessen it. They are taught because they matter. They help us take away from God’s revelation what He intended, thereby, enabling us to rest in the grace we find only in Him. This pleases the heart of God and brings Him the glory He is due!