Thursday, March 24, 2016

Salvation and Sanctification

Most people have heard of the three tenses of salvation:

Past...We have been saved from the penalty of sin.
Romans 5:9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.  (I Thessalonians 1:9-10)
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now not condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Present...We are being saved from the power of sin.
Romans 6:14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
Romans 6:17-18 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin,you became slaves of righteousness.
Galatians 5:1 It was for freedom that Christ set us free.  (John 8:31-36, Romans 6:5-13)

Future....We will be saved from the presence of sin.
I John 3:2-3 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be.  We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.
(I Corinthians 15:52-57, Revelation 21-22)

In a very similar fashion we also see the three aspects of sanctification. To be sanctified is to be set apart from sin, and set apart to God. It is to be set apart from seeking our own pleasure, our own way, and our own purposes, so as to seek God's pleasure and accomplish His will in all that we do.  It is to be spiritually taken out of the world and placed into Christ.  In a practical sense it is to be repurposed and reoriented.  In a spiritual sense it is to be conformed to the image of Christ.

We are sanctified:

Positionally...we have been sanctified
I Corinthians 1:30 but by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification.
I Peter 1:1-2 To those...who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father by the sanctifying work of the Spirit

Progressively...we are being sanctified and are becoming more sanctified
I Thessalonians 4:4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification
Hebrews 12:14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.
Philippians 2:12-13 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear trembling; for it is God who is at work in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
I Thessalonians 4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification...
Romans 8:28-29b And we know that God cause all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son...
II Peter 3:17-18 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ...

Perfectly...we will be sanctified
Philippians 1:6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Colossians 1:28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.
I Thessalonians 5:23-24 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Faithful is He who called you, and He will bring it to pass.
I John 3:2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be.  We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.

Salvation and sanctification are inextricably linked, and you cannot have one apart from the other. God's will for us is encompassed in our salvation and accomplished through our sanctification. Romans 6:22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.  Sanctification then is the means by which God separates us from sin unto Himself, first postionally, then progressively, and finally, perfectly.

Where are you in this process, my friend?  Have you been separated and freed from sin so that you do not practice sin as a habit of life and can say no to sin (I John 3:9-10)?   Have you experienced His enabling power so as to do His will (Hebrews 13:20-21)?  Is the growing desire of your heart to please Him all the more (II Corinthians 5:14-15)?  Are you becoming more like Christ in thought and deed (Romans 12:2)?  If so, then praise God for His work in your life.  If not, then confess to God your separation from Him, repent from your own ways and in faith ask Him to save and sanctify you.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Success(?) in Ministry

We had the great blessing to attend the Shepherd's Conference last week at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles.  It was a wonderful time of preaching and singing and worshiping and fellowship. The theme this year was pastoral encouragement, and each speaker addressed it from different perspectives.  Nathan Busenitz preached an excellent sermon on pastoral success, which I enjoyed; but he did not go quite far enough in his sermon.  I think we as pastors and christian workers, especially in our American context need a paradigm shift regarding how to measure our ministry; and the shift would be from measuring it according to secular criteria to measuring according to Biblical standards. This will cause us to take a closer look at what the Bible lays out as the true measure of a ministry.  Let's take that closer look.  What follows is a repost from a previous blog.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me,
because He considered me faithful, putting me into service.
I Timothy 1:12
(italics mine)

As pastors, our desire should be to be faithful, not successful!  Too much, pardon me...way too much... emphasis is put on a pastor being successful.  Pastors grade themselves, and are graded by others, on the success of their ministry, instead of the faithfulness of their ministry.  There are conferences, seminars, magazines (Leadership), blogs, articles, and websites that are devoted to the pastor's success. There are secular standards of measure that are used such as numbers, growth, baptisms, budget, missions involvement, influence, twitter followers, website or blog hits, and the like.  And, yes, the more 'spiritual' will talk about how true success in ministry is measured in spiritual terms, or how you can't measure success because it is spiritual; but the problem is that the stress is still on being successful.

I cannot find one scripture in the entire Bible that refers to a pastor being successful. In fact, the Bible never stresses the success of the pastor, but stresses the faithfulness of the pastor.  For example see I Timothy 1:12 above and listen to I Corinthians 4:1-2 "Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.  In this case moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found (pistosfaithful/trustworthy."  

This is why we never find any Scriptures where the Lord is measuring our success, but we see where He is always measuring our faithfulness, our trustworthiness.  For example:

Luke 16:10 He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing will be unrighteous in much. 

For us as pastors we see this principle in Luke played out in Matthew 24:45-46 "Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time?  Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes."  And we see this illustrated vividly for us in a parable of the kingdom, Christ's kingdom, in Matthew 25:14-30. In this parable we see the Master leaving and entrusting his possessions to his slaves, and in verses 21 and 23 we see His commendation upon His return, "His master said to him, "Well done good and faithful slave, You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your Master." Christ has left this earth for a while, and has given us pastors charge over His possessions (His people, see I Peter 2:9, Titus 2:14). His concern, as so wonderfully illustrated in the Scriptures above, is for us to be faithful with what He has given us, and He has not entrusted everyone with the same amount.

You see, when you try to measure success, the only true way to measure is if everyone is given the exact same ministry, the exact same gifting, the exact same set of circumstances, and so on.  But the Lord has not seen fit for it to work in that way.  In addition to the verses listed above in Matthew consider this in Romans 12:3-6 "For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.  For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly; if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith." So there is no standard by which we can all be measured, except our faithfulness.  So as we have seen in Matthew (and also in Luke 19) when the Lord measures a ministry, He measures it by faithfulness.

When we measure our ministry and its 'success' by the secular standards mentioned above, then we automatically start comparing ourselves to others, or others to ourselves. This will lead to our either being puffed up or deflated, to our being envious or condescending, to our being bitter, or to our dying a thousand deaths if not enough people show up.

What we are concerned about in our ministry will be what we emphasize in our ministry. When our concern is our success, then success, in whatever way we measure it, will be the emphasis; and if success in ministry is our goal, then our ministry automatically becomes about us and our goal(s) and not about the Lord and the accomplishment of His purpose(s).  

As indicated above, the Lord is using us (talking to pastors in particular here), to accomplish His purpose(s). We are the tools, the means, the vessels that He has chosen to use, but it is Him that is accomplishing His purpose(s) through us.  When we put the emphasis on our success, it then becomes us achieving our goals with the Lord's "help."  When the emphasis in on our success, the Lord becomes our means in accomplishing our goals instead of us being the means of the accomplishment of His eternal purpose; and, in effect, the Lord becomes our servant and we cease to be His; and thus, the glory is no longer the Lord's but ours. This is very subtle, but it is rampant in the ministry here in the states, as we have corrupted the ministry with the American success syndrome. In considering this, let us look at a few Scriptures that can give us the right perspective on this:

Psalm 127:1 Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keep awake in vain.
II Corinthians 3:4-6 Such confidence we have through Christ toward God.  Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit...
I Corinthians 12:4...the Spirit gives the gifts
I Corinthians 12:5...the Lord gives the ministries
I Corinthians 12:6...our God causes the effects
II Timothy 2:21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor; sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared (made fit) for every good work.
II Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.

How these verses work together in a gospel ministry is illustrated in these mysteries:

Mark 4:26-28 And He was saying, "The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows--how, he himself does not know. The soil produces the crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head.
I Corinthians 15:10 By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove in vain (because Paul was faithful), but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I but the grace of God with me.

Brother pastors and fellow Christian workers.  Let us no longer be slaves to the secular success syndrome that has crept into the church and try to measure our ministries by artificial and arbitrary standards. Let our concern not be for our success, but for our faithfulness; and therefore let us seek to be faithful in the task, the great and noble task, of expanding the kingdom which was begun in Christ and will be culminated in Christ when He returns and rules.  Let our success be found in our faithfulness to the Lord and to the ministry to which He has called us, and has equipped us and gifted us to perform; and let us keep our hands firmly on the plow as we follow His path and pray for His will to be done and not our own.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Being Justified by Faith We Have...

The main thing that Paul does in the book of Romans is to lay out the great foundational truths of the gospel. In the section from Romans 3:21-5:21 Paul presents great truths of salvation, truths that run contra to man's self-righteous, self-sufficient sensibilities; and the great truth he presents in verses 3:21-4:25 is justification by faith alone.  So in Romans 5:1-2 Paul gives us three benefits, three blessings that are ours that result from being justified by faith. Because we have been justified by faith:
1. We have Peace with God
2. We enter into grace and stand in grace
3. We have hope of the glory of God  (which is a cause of exulting)

Before we get into the benefits of justification, though, we want to see how we have come to possess these wonderful benefits.  It is through Christ that we have these blessings.  He is the means through whom God has blessed us.  We have peace with God and stand in grace through Christ. This peace with God, and this grace from God are ours through Christ, and they are the foundation of our hope in the glory of God.  It is through Christ that God grants us peace and grace (why else does Paul constantly say "Grace and peace to you?").  And because of the reality of these blessings we have hope of the glory of God.  God has given us so much through His Son.  The Bible is replete with verses that communicate this to us.  Such as:
Romans 8:31b-32…If God is for us who is against us, who is against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?
I Corinthians 8:3 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.

Now let's look at a brief outline of the benefits listed by Paul.

Peace with God
The peace we have with God is the peace that God has made
Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.  God is the peace maker, He is the one who has reconciled with us, not us with Him.  People talk frequently about making their peace with God, but it is God that has made peace with man through His Son. Romans 5:10 tells us that while we were still enemies God reconcile with us.  II Corinthians 5:21 tells us that it was God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.  Listen to these words from the Lord.

Colossians 1:19-20 It was the Father’s good pleasure…through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross…

God has made peace with man, not by means of force, but by means of sacrifice, the sacrifice of His only begotten Son.

The peace we have with God is the peace Christ had with God
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you…..
John 16:33 These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.
The peace we have with God is the perfect peace that Christ has with Him.

The peace we have with God is proclaimed in the gospel
Acts 10:36 The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)—
Ephesians 6:15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace
Ephesians 2:17 and He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near.
The gospel is the good news of peace, it is the proclamation one can have peace, and its resulting harmony and unity, with God Himself.

This peace with God is the hallmark of our relationship with Him
Colossians 1:21-22a And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death
Romans 8:6-7 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so.
In our mindset, in our thoughts, we are no longer at odds with God, but have a sweet and abiding peace with Him.  

The peace we have with God is the foundation of our hope
Romans 15:13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you  will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We enter into grace and stand in grace
The word for stand is histemi, which means to be fixed, or established, to be kept intact, to be immovable.  Through Christ, as a result of our jusitification by faith, we enter into a state of grace in which we are fixed and established, never to be moved or removed.
John 1:14…the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth…..For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.
Ephesians 1:6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed upon us in the Beloved.
Ephesians 1:7b-8a…according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us….
II Timothy 1:9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.
II Timothy 2:1 You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

We have hope of the glory of God  (which is a cause of exulting)
What is it about this hope that causes a boastful rejoicing on our behalf? It is because it is not hope in general, but a specific hope, a hope of the glory of God.  What is it about this glory that causes such a response on our part?

It is an eschatological glory
I John 3:2-3 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be.  We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.  And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him, purifies himself, just as He is pure.
I Corinthians 15:42-43 So also is the resurrection of the dead.  It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power….

It is a predestined glory
Romans 8:30 and those whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom he called, he also justified; and these whom He justified, He glorified.
I Peter 5:10…the God of all grace who called you to His eternal glory in Christ…
II Timothy 1:9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.

It is the glory of Christ
John 17:22,24 The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one…Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.
Romans 8:16-17 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
I Thessalonians 1:9-10 These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who believe….
Colossians 3:4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
I Peter 1:7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious that gold which is perishable, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 3:20-21 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.

It is a glory that belongs only to those of the household of God
Romans 8:21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery of corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
I Peter 5:1 Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ , and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed…

Yes, the greatest benefit of being justified by faith is that on that day, when the Lord comes back, and the dead in Christ are raised, each in his own order, we shall be raised with a body that is imperishable and glorious, just like our Lord's, for we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is (I John 3:2).  It is the day when our salvation will be complete.  This indeed is a cause of exultation now because of our confident expectation of God's fulfillment of His many promises to us.