Tag Archive: Sanctification

And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. Ezek. 11:19-20

 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezek. 36:26-27

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For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,  and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did… Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Cor. 10:1-6, 11-13.

Think about those verses. Paul is describing the history of Israel, and says that everything that happened, is for our benefit as Christians today. I think it is no stretch to extend that to the entire Old Testament. Thousands of years of human history were orchestrated by God so that we, today, as believers can grow closer to God. How much must God care for us? He gave us a great history Lesson to learn from, replete with mistakes to avoid. It is a warning, yes, but a warning with directions on how to avoid the mistakes that Israel made. So why read the Bible? Because the Bible is our handbook, our guide on life’s journey. Last week I put forward the idea that all of teach through our lives. If that is the case, then the ancients lived for us. We see the trails that they took, and the points where they became lost. Let us learn from them.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
 Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.” – Psalm 51:10-12

The inscription of this psalm explains that David wrote it after Nathan the prophet confronted him about his grievous evil: taking another man’s wife and then having her husband, one of his great army champions, killed in battle. Obviously, this it is hard to imagine an act more despicable, and, after Nathan calls David out on this and condemns him, David pens this psalm in grief, remorse, and repentance.
What I want to look at today is verses ten through twelve. Here, David asks God to restore his soul, and for the Holy Spirit to stay within him. David had no guarantee of this. His predecessor, Saul, also had the Holy Spirit dwelling within him. But, after impatiently making sacrifices himself instead of waiting for the priest, Samuel, to make them, the Holy Spirit left Saul. To me, Saul’s sin pales in comparison to that of David’s, and I think that David felt this too. Thus his desperation. However, unlike Saul, David turns back to God, realizing that only God can cleanse him of his wrongdoing.

And that is to be our response when we sin as well. But, our prayer to God should be different than that of David. After Christ ascended, he sent the Holy Spirit to live inside us and keep us on the path of right. And, unlike with David in the Old Testament, we have a guarantee that he will not leave us. Our sin has already been removed by Christ’s death on the cross. The Holy Spirit lives in us forever, and empowers us to live Christ’s work out in our lives. We still do not always follow God, but we know that, if Jesus has died for us, his Holy Spirit will restore us, and that our heart will remain clean.

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” – 1 Cor 13:11-12

Sometimes, it seems as though, even though I have the Word of God, I can’t seem to understand it. Seeing God through his Word sometimes can seem like looking into a foggy mirror. But I don’t think this is God’s fault, but mine. Too many of my own sins, my own desire, taints the message that I’m reading. Or, perhaps, I have not yet matured in an area to grasp the concept. Even though, as I mentioned last week, Jesus has brought light into the world, he lets us grow into it. He transforms us slowly. But, I know that one day I will be united with him and perfected. In the mean time, I try to serve God and grow to spiritual maturity.

And it happened when [Jesus] was in a certain city, that behold, a man who was full of leprosy saw Jesus; and he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then He put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately the leprosy left him. 14 And He charged him to tell no one, “But go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as a testimony to them, just as Moses commanded.” …Then behold, men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they sought to bring in and lay before Jesus… When He saw their faith, He said to him, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” Luke 5:12, 13, 18, 20

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“…Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:7b-8

About two years ago, I graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with a Bachelor’s Degree in History. Last month, my brother graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth with a Bachelor’s in Political Science and Anthropology. One of my sisters has been in college a year and my other sister will start in a couple of years. Our parents were professional teachers, and thus instilled in us a value for education.

But what is the value of education? I think chiefly education is to train you for life. It is valuable because it enables you to better understand the world and to contribute to it. God made the world for us to explore, and an education helps us do that. Now that my brother and I have graduated, we are supposed to be better citizens, with our studies having equipped us to deal with life’s challenges.

In many ways, our lives themselves are training. While life now is important, it is not nearly as important as the life to come. As Paul explains in 1st Timothy 4, we will someday graduate to an eternal life, and so it is important to train for that future life. Our lives now teach us lessons that will prepare us for our eternity. So I ask myself, am I ready to graduate? Will I pass the test and live in the coming Kingdom? If I, and if you, trust in the work that Christ already did, then the answer is yes. Christ graduated a life on earth with honors, and he freely passes on those honors to us. So we can, if we have received those honors, say that yes, indeed, we will graduate.

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.” Ephesians 6:5-8

Having graduated from college with a Bachelor’s in History, I now work at a pizza restaurant. As with probably all food service establishments, the work can at time get quite grueling, with relatively low pay as a reward. Quite often the situation can become very frustrating, as customers stream through the door, the phones keep ringing, and I’m falling behind with orders. It’s times like these that my faith is tested. As a burgeoning writer and scholar, I love to study theology and Church history. But do I put my knowledge into practice?

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“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” – 1 Peter 2:24
New Year’s resolutions have a reputation as being notoriously unreliable. Around the beginning of every new year, I find comics in the paper joking about how short New Year’s resolutions are. It is easy to promise to live better, but far easier to fall back into old habits. Yet, for the Christian, there is a promise that we can rest in: If we believe in Christ, then we have been made new, and, though we may struggle to overcome the temptations of this world and our desires, we know that we will never truly fall out of the arms of Jesus.

Through the atonement, the death of Christ on the Cross, our old self was crucified. We have been raised up to new life, and nothing the world sends at us can take that away. Even our own failures cannot undo what Christ has done. He resolved to live among us, and to atone for our wrongs at the Cross. No matter how much our resolve may falter, we know that God’s resolve never will. He has resolved to make us like him, and no mistakes that we might make will prevent him from fulfilling that resolution.

“…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” – Hebrews 12:2-3
Life often can be thought of as endurance training. In the same way that a runner is tested and stretched beyond their limits when they train for a competition, in the same way life tests and stretches us in our journey through it. The obstacles, the pain, and the sorrow we encounter on our way tries our spirit, refining it as ore is put through a fire. As Christians, we know that God is working everything in our life toward ultimate good.

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“Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” – 2 Corinthians 3:4-6
There is a legal idiom, “the letter of the law and the spirit of the law,” which asks us to look at why laws are written. Should laws promote justice and fairness, or exploit and oppress? Are we following a law as it is technically written, in order to manipulate it to our advantage, or are we following the law according to what it intended, so that the oppressed may be treated fairly? In 2 Corinthians 3, God, speaking through the Apostle Paul, makes a similar comparison of letter versus Spirit, and reveals to us Christians the liberating truth of his New Promise.

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