Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Good Fight: On sanctification and making war against sin

Great article on the reminder that sanctification is essential to the Christian walk. And how we Christians need to love God and love people... and hate sin too.
When you first came to faith, how did you understand the process of growing in Christ-likeness?

I grew up in a pretty abusive home. There was a lot of sin in my house. So after I got saved in high school, I still had a lot of really big issues. I had massive amounts of anger in my life, and I still struggled with lust. At the time I thought there were really only three sins—sex, drinking, and cussing. So I immediately tried to clean those things up. But I had no idea how hard it was going to be.

We want people to think beyond what's right and wrong. We want them to fill their lives with things that stir their affections for Jesus Christ.

I had been fed a gospel that said, "Do you want a better life? Do you want to be happy? Then come to Jesus." But when my struggles with sin didn't immediately go away, I felt I had been lied to. I felt I had been duped. No one told me how much deeper sin was, or how ruthless Jesus was going to be once he took over my heart.

What have you learned since then?

I've learned that the process looks different for different people in different locations and with access to different resources. It's very complex, and that's the error we make in many churches—we try to standardize the process for everyone. There is a guy on staff here with a very similar story to mine; he's struggled with similar things. But God worked to sanctify him in a very different way than he worked to sanctify me.

But are there certain ingredients that are always present even if the process looks different?

There must be surrender. We need to have authentic relationships where there is openness and freedom to be honest about where we are and a willingness to let others tell us the hard truth.

One of the most painful days in my own spiritual development was when a friend had the courage to confront me about my sin. I was complaining about how much I hated some of the things I do. He said, "Sins aren't things you do. Sin is about who you are." I'd never thought about it like that. The awareness of my sinfulness was very humbling, and it sent me really running back to the Lord.

How did that change the way you seek growth?

It started making me very frustrated with the church. If you're struggling with anger or lust and the church's answer is a four-point sermon on how to get rid of it, and you do those four points and it doesn't work, it leaves you frustrated. You feel like the church is either lying or is irrelevant, or you are more broken than anyone else.


Do you believe this generation has trouble taking responsibility for its sin?

Yeah. There's a strong victim mentality in my generation. I think it's spiritual laziness. They will agree that God is sovereign over all, but then they will say, "Well, I wish he would sovereignly take away my lust issue." There's just not a lot of fortitude, not a lot of fight in them.

How do you combat that mentality?

I preach hard against that idea and plead with people to make war against sin. I tell them it's not going to be easy. Some people are meant to wrestle with their sin a long time before God brings them to freedom, but let's wrestle. Let's fight. Let's do something besides just complain.

Praise God for this timely article. I can see the pieces all fitting together so beautifully. God is training me in righteousness, and revealing to me my character flaws that are not pleasing to Him. But it's also part of His timing as well - which brings a lot of relief and joy to me - that God is not seeking to 'grade' me, but to shepherd me and prune me.

Can see how He is progressively sanctifying me by doing the following:
1. sending people along to point out certain areas of my life that are not pleasing to Him.
2. confirming that these feedbacks are accurate and genuine by his Holy Spirit helping me understand as I pray, reflect and read the Bible
3. putting me through situations where I can see my sins in full technicolour.
4. helping me cry out to Him for help
5. giving me hope that true character change is indeed possible - with Yeu Ann alone this is impossible, but not with God - with him all things are possible
6. guiding me to think and plan how to fight against these sins and how to grow
7. using the church to help me live out my new life in Christ, and encouraging and affirming what genuine growth they do see.

This year has started with a roll. During the missions trip, I went through a period in the middle of the trip, where I began to feel very depressed and discouraged and considered giving up entirely on missions and even caregroup. Had sent off an emotional email to my shepherd and one of my closest friends too.

But after I wrestled with God in prayer for 3 or 4 hours, I finally gave in to Him and said, "Lord, I surrender. Help me read what You want to speak to me. Your servant is listening." Ah! then I saw these words in the Bible: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." And I knew that Jesus himself had spoken to me clearly.

Wow! So I was reminded that the Christian life is bound to have hardships. And we must keep getting up and fighting. That I must press on and live out His teachings in my life. And the missionary life is going to be full of hardships. But we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.

And tension with my colleague. I was encouraged, however, to find that I'm not the only one - at least 2 other bro and sis are having current tensions too. Ah. This is a beautiful opportunity to live out Jesus' teachings: "Love your enemies... do good to those who hate you... etc." It is never easy, but that is the way of the Cross.

Now, reading this article, am reminded again of the good fight! To love God and people also means to hate sin too. To love God and people totally means that I must hate sin totally too. Yes, have already made some plans in my heart to grow. I need to write them down too.

Must set an example for my sheep this year onwards in living a holier life, a life that loves God more earnestly and hates sin more earnestly too! Amen. Yay... more running ahead through the 'minefields' to help pave the way for my sheep this year, because my sheep can only grow in Christ as much as I grow in Christ.

Yup! May 2010 be a year of good fighting and wonderful victories in Jesus' name! Amen!