Friday, May 25, 2018

Holy Expectations

Before the Apostle Paul signed his first letter to the Christians at Thessalonica, he wrote, "May the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely..."  (I Thessalonians 5:23)  The Apostle makes it sounds like God is ready to do a complete work.   "Entirely" means there will be nothing partial, or half done. Entirely means that no part of the inner being will be left untouched by holy presence and power.  If anyone wonders about the thoroughness of the work of grace, those words should send them in the right direction.
 
A few things about sanctification come to mind easily enough.  Through sanctification we come to a more constant and deeper awareness of the presence of God.  Through sanctification we discover a more constant and deeper awareness of the spiritual power available to us for the living of our lives.  Through sanctification we experience in a more natural and spontaneous manner the mindset and the loving heart of Jesus.  Through sanctification the fruit of Spirit begins to grow toward maturity.  Through sanctification we know a greater sensitivity to people and opportunities which are a part of each day. 
 
When we offer ourselves completely to God solely for the purpose His pleasure and design, we should not expect life to remain mediocre and ordinary, but filled with a sense that something more is being experienced in our life.  Never expect God not to make use of us if we declare to Him that we are completely available to do whatever it is that He has in His heart for us to do. 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

A Testimony

Back in my Asbury College days when I first starting hearing that preaching and teaching about sanctification, it seemed to me that it was about an experience.  I thought there was some special experience to be had that would be good for a lifetime.  Of course, I was mistaken.  Sanctification is not about a single moment in our lives, but is, instead, about a lifetime.  This is not to say that there may not be some spiritual experience which brings to a climax a deep longing for God, but it is not necessary.  What does seem necessary is consciously choosing to allow the Holy Spirit to be the primary source of influence in everything we do. 
 
My response to the message about the sanctified heart did take me to an altar one afternoon during the Asbury Revival, but what I soon realized was that the moment was only a beginning.  It was the initiating moment for a journey that has stretched from then until now.  The personal confessing and heart cleansing by the Spirit that afternoon was not one that was final, but one that pointed me toward the way God was calling me to live for the rest of my days.  While there have been many times when the Holy Spirit has made me aware of heart work that needed doing, the moment at the Asbury altar was for me a powerful and unforgettable moment of being overwhelmed by the Spirit.  It set the course for my spiritual life.
 
No two of us are the same.  We are all different and as different children, our Father God responds differently to us.  But, there are things which He desires for every one of us.  According to the Word, one of the things He desires for each of us is our sanctification.  He wants us to live with such a longing for Him that we are never satisfied until we step into that life of living totally dependent upon Him.  When we come to the place where nothing is more important to us than Him, He is ready to fill our hearts with an awareness of holy presence which will surpass anything we might have imagined possible. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Holiness

Sanctification is about holiness.  Strange as it seems to some, holiness is one word which frightens Christians.  If you want to make a group of Christians run in the other direction, start talking about holiness.  No one in today's church wants to be labeled with anything that smacks of holiness.   Unfortunately, it brings to mind images of stern and somber people dressed in body covering black who never talk about anything except religion.  To say that holiness has gotten a bad rap is indeed an understatement. 
 
The truth is that any follower of Jesus is called to embrace the sanctified life.  I Thessalonians 4:3 says quite plainly, "For this is will of God, your sanctification..."  And a few sentences later the Apostle went on to say, "For God did not call us to impurity, but in holiness."  (I Thessalonians 4:7)  Another Apostle would write in another place, "...for it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy.' "  (I Peter 1:16)  It is hard to come to any conclusion except the obvious ones.  God desires sanctification for us.  He wants us to manifest holiness in our living.

What becomes obvious to most of us in a hurry is that holiness is not likely to occur in our lives if we continue trying to make ourselves into the image of Christ.  Good living is a good thing, but it is not enough.  What we need to experience the something more God desires for us is a radical dependence on the Holy Spirit.  It is the kind of dependence which allows Him complete control in our inner being so that His shaping and transforming power is never quenched or limited.  Such is God's will for each one of us. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Beginning of the Journey

Not once in all my years of ministry has anyone ever suggested taking the Communion plate and using it for the fried chicken at a Church Night Supper.  Neither has anyone ever gone to the baptismal font with a bar of soap to wash their hands.  The reason is simple.  These things are holy.  Like everything else in the sanctuary (organ, piano, pulpit, candle stands, hymn books, etc.), they have been set apart through a service of consecration.  Once consecrated they are to only be used for holy purposes.
 
It is, of course, something started a long time ago.  When Moses was putting together The Tabernacle of Meeting, he was instructed by God, "Then you shall take the anointing oil, and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it, and consecrate it and all its furniture, so that it shall become holy." (Exodus 40:9)  Even the vestments of Aaron, the priest, were set apart for holy purposes.  What Aaron wore while doing the work of the priest, he did not wear to a casual social gathering.  It would have been unthinkable.
 
Romans 12:1-2 which says, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship," simply must be taken into consideration by anyone who is seeking after what the Word is saying about sanctification.  Even as things can be set apart to be used only for holy purposes, so can we choose to live before God as one set apart to be used for holy purposes.  Such a desire and longing is the beginning of our journey into the sanctified life.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Something More

When Peter and John got to Samaria they discovered that the believers there had been baptized in the name of Jesus.  While such sounds like a good thing, the language implies that something more is being missed.  Verse 16 of the 8th chapter of Acts reads, "...they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus."  It is not often that a simple word like "only" becomes such a weighty and significant word.  Something was missing from their experience.   Peter and John went to pray for these believers to receive the Holy Spirit and before they left, the two Apostles, "...laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit."  (Acts 8:17)
 
Now no one needs to argue with this preacher about time of the arrival of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the believer.  The Scripture makes it clear that as we respond to Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to abide in us.  The Spirit is the One who assures us that we are indeed a child of God.  But, what is also true is that while we receive all of the Holy Spirit at the moment of deciding for Jesus, the Holy Spirit does not really receive all of us.  Instead of shucking those sinful patterns and lifestyle that we have confessed, we tend to hang on to them.  We acknowledge our dirty laundry and then choose to hang on to it. 
 
When we hear that preaching about sanctification, or being baptized with the Holy Spirit, what we are hearing is a call to give the Holy Spirit complete control of our lives.  In other words, the Spirit gets all of us.  The believers in Samaria needed to know the full power of the Holy Spirit in their lives if they were going to be able to continue the walk they had started with Jesus.   It is no different for those of us today who walk with Jesus.  There comes that moment when we have to decide if we are going to put the demands of ego aside and allow the Holy Spirit to have control of every part of who we are.  There is something more for all of us just as there was something more for those disciples who stood before Peter and John. 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Greek to Me

When I was doing some time at Asbury Theological Seminary, I took a couple of courses in Greek which resulted in 10 hours of academic credit.  Since the New Testament is translated from very old Greek manuscripts, it is always a good thing for any ministerial candidate to study the language.  While I never saw myself as a Greek scholar, I have carried with me the ability to recognize and know something about a few Greek words.  One of those words is "baptizo."   Of course, anyone can figure that one out to be baptize.  But, an interesting thing learned and remembered about the word is that one of the alternate translations renders it "overwhelm."
 
When it comes to reading about people being baptized with the Spirit, or filled with the Spirit, the word "overwhelm" always comes to mind.  And, certainly the picture painted with words like "rushing wind" and "tongues of fire" not only describes Pentecost, but also speaks of those disciples being overwhelmed by the power of the Holy Spirit.  I have always been partial to the phrase, "overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit."   Even as I can visualize being overwhelmed by the waters of baptism, so does it give a clearer image of what it means to be baptized with the Spirit.
 
When we are overwhelmed by something, it takes us away.  It causes us to disappear.  It becomes impossible to stand in the midst of the moment.  What was no longer exists.  The word "overwhelm" carries with it the image of everything from the past being swept away with something radically new and different being left.  It sounds like a good definition of what happens to us as we allow ourselves to come under the influence and power of the Holy Spirit. 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Surrender

Five years after my father's death, my mother married a man who was both a Methodist preacher and the son of a Methodist preacher.   When this new grandfather preacher died in the early years of my own ministry, I took a number of books from his library, added them to my small collection, and then carried them with me through the decades of my preaching years.  One of the books was entitled, "Full Surrender" by J. Edwin Orr.  A word from that book I have carried with me through the years.  "Salvation is freedom from the guilt of sin, sanctification is freedom from the power of sin, and glorification is the freedom from the presence of sin."
 
As I was trying to figure out what sanctification was all about, it seemed to me that I was hearing preachers telling me that it was about never sinning again.  While the idea sounded good, it seemed a bit beyond the realm of possibilities.  I knew myself to well.  The quote from J. Edwin Orr kept me grounded on a solid place as I went forward in my life as one who desired to live under the control of the Holy Spirit.  While I have always known myself as a sinner, I also came to understand that life lived under the influence of the Holy Spirit enabled me to live as I could not possibly live as I depended on my own strength.
 
Those who hear find themselves dissatisfied and frustrated with a Christian walk characterized more by inconsistencies than faithfulness may discover within the ensuing crisis of faith a call to abandon everything for God so that His Holy Spirit might have full control of our inner being.  If the power of sin is to be broken in our lives, it will not be because of our human effort, but because of the power of the Holy Spirit as He moves and works within a heart totally surrendered to whatever it is that God wants to do.