I have been obsessed over Gospel for about a month now. I’m sure friends are sick of hearing me talk about it, and yet I continue, due to this driving need in my heart to understand our assurance of the Hope of salvation.There has been a huge misnomer that has led to some bad theology, some confusion, and a general state of complacency in the Christian sub-culture. Somewhere along the line we started believing that we are already saved, that we already have the full scope of redemption. I challenge that, and all the bad theology, the complacency, and the general state of confusion that ensues. The war over man’s free will and God’s divine election, the hype surrounding the word of faith and health and wealth, Christians living carnally: in my opinion all these things are good examples of bad thinking about our Salvation.
I want to steer people away from expecting to see the fullness of redemption here and now and remind people that we have the assurance of the hope of salvation.
From the get go I want to be clear: I don’t know everything about this hope of our salvation. I am not well-schooled in classic or new theological thought. I have not read all that the early church fathers have written about this, and I don’t want to challenge the statues-quot just for the sake of rustling some skirts. This topic is something that I have felt needs to be addressed, so I am seeking out what God has to say about it. These are my reflections about it, and I offer anyone who wants to converse about this a chance; post your comments or email me. We are talking about the foundation of our new life in Christ, and since we all have vested interest in this, we need to dialogue and explore what our Salvation is as a community.
The most practical application of our hope of salvation (and I’m guessing the aspect we struggle with the most) is sanctification- the way we live out the reality of belonging to Jesus. How I treat my neighbor; what kind of thoughts I dwell upon, how my habits and weakness hurt the people around me. I don’t know about any of you, but for me this is where the rubber meets the road. It is not enough to say I believe in Jesus. My life has to reflect it. But far, far too often, I find Romans 7 to be true in me. I do the very thing I am trying so hard not to do, and any aspirations of Holy living are usually shot down within the first five minutes of the day.
What then should I do with the belief some hold that we are entirely saved at present? The belief that we have all the benefits of salvation now might tell me that I just need to choose Holiness, to exercise my authority in Christ, to cast out the evil, to change my thinking, and to choose to live in victory… All of these sound good, but are too far out of reach for a screw up like me. So should I resign myself to my sin, abandon any Hope for change, and pray every night that God might find it in His heart to let a wretch like me into heaven? If there is no chance to live contrary to the sinful, carnal nature that is ours by birth and through Adam, then there is no hope, because living by the flesh pays out in death (6:20-23).
We are promised something more because we belong to Jesus. If you want proof of that, look to the Holy Ghost who indwells every believer (John 14:16-17). This is evidence of belonging to Christ, and our spirits are quickened and alive because of the righteousness of Christ- counted ours through faith and placed in us by The Spirit. So, even though our bodies are dead because of sin, we have life in our spirit.
So what? Preachers use this jargon to tell you to shape up or ship out… televangelists scam you into giving as an outworking of this truth… all in all, what in the name of God does this have to do with me, my life, and the first five minutes of my day?
Let me try and put it another way: Living according to the flesh will result in ultimate and eternal death. This is our nature when we are born; this is what I mean by saying that all men are inherent sinners. We act out of bondage to a nature that is bent on the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life because it is a nature that is disconnected and out of harmony with God. So, along comes Jesus, and he starts talking about being alive… I mean really alive. Alive in the way we stand before God; alive in the way we act and think; alive in the sense of not being bound and compelled to always do anti-God things. We take a chance, believe this heavenly rascal, and trust that His blood sacrifice is enough to make us right with God (justification), as His resurrection displays the power He has to change the nature of our life from sin to righteous (sanctification).
Before you sit back and start thinking that you’re now a good ol’ boy who never does any harm because Jesus done fixed you good, think about this: Sanctification is only as good as we act it out to be.
We will never be free from the battle of sin this side of Glory. This is why we are admonished to continually – every moment of every day – put to death the deeds of the flesh (which we have been set free from slavery to, or automatic compulsory obedience to,) and live for righteousness, all by the power of The Spirit who indwells us.
But we now have opportunity and resources to live according to the law of the Spirit of Life, and The Spirit Himself is teaching us how to take every opportunity and live for righteousness instead of for sin. Our mindset and heart orientation has changed. No longer do we have minds that only think about things completely contrary to God; now we have minds that are set on the things of the Spirit. Our desires are not for sin and death; our deepest desires are for Righteousness and life. In life we now have a choice: Will I give myself to sinful pursuits, or will I set myself to obey God and be led by the Spirit?
So let me give my working definition of Sanctification:
Sanctification is the progressive occurrence of our response to the Grace we have access to through faith in Jesus as the atonement sacrifice.
It is not our place to try and earn good standing before God, for that would negate Grace altogether. It is our place to continually put down the deeds of the flesh (fight against actions of sin) only by the power of the Spirit of God, and in so doing to suffer with Christ. Sanctification is living in the assurance of the Hope of salvation, meaning that we see now the first fruits of salvation (i.e. we are unbound from the power of sin and may live justified lives that through Grace live contrary to sin), and we eagerly look forward to the fullness of our salvation (i.e. when there is no more continual battle with the fleshly nature and all of us, body, soul, and spirit is glorified).
The Hope of salvation is our hope for the fullness of all of everything God has promised us in Jesus. By faith, we now have access to Grace, are justified by the blood, are free from the law of sin, are learning to take every opportunity we have to use the resources of God put in us by the Spirit to live for God, and everything else that is the First Fruits of this glorious salvation.
But, we still wait with all of creation for God to make good His pledge of adoption toward us and prove our Hope of redemption true. Since the fullness of redemption and salvation is still a ways off, we deal with our failure to live righteously every day. Does this mean that sanctification really has no value? Never let that be so! It means that we are still learning to live this new life Jesus placed in us, and the key is faith. When we lose this perspective we are too hard on ourselves one day and too lax the next. Our standing before God (justified) never changes, but the outworking of that reality is a hard process that we are learning, growing, and progressing in.
So, there is Hope- yet still hidden in Christ. I guess that makes our lives revelations of the mystery of God. A much better purpose than what we were born to. Grace is one of those things that can change anything… I am thankful that God did not draw a line in the sand and demand that I live up to it under my own nature and power. I am just as thankful that He did not draw a line just to carry me over it. He has displayed His Holiness, and sin cannot exist in His physical presence. So He told me to be Holy as He is… then He gave me all I will ever need to be Holy (Grace)… and now He is teaching me how to live in Grace. Truly, No one is like our God!