Continuing with our Series on Truth with respect to each of three cardinal Christian doctrines of Justification, Sanctification and Glorification, today let’s focus on the truth about Sanctification…
What is the ultimate purpose of our Heavenly Father in saving us from sin if it is not to make us like His Son (2 Cor 3:18/1 John 3:2) both spiritually and in glorious bodily form? When we come to Him, at the point of salvation, let it be said that we come “warts and all.” From then on He starts sculpting us in His Son’s image by the Spirit He places in us to lead us in every area of our lives (Gal 5:16). Of course, there is N.T. scripture at hand (Matt-Rev), whose teachings would be very much in consonance with the Spirit’s leading; but when it comes to very personal issues like, ‘can I view TV Serials’ or ‘should I take-up full-time work’ or ‘where should I minister for God’s glory’…it is only the Holy Spirit’s leading (I John 2:27) that one has to follow.
Also consider the words of the wise Apostle Peter, as found recorded in 2 Peter 1:5-11, which is the very definition of growing into Christ-like image…
Hmmm…moral excellence…knowledge…self-control…patient endurance…godliness…brotherly affection…love…now dear friends these virtues which one needs to add to his/her saving faith (referred to in the afore-said Scripture portion) cannot be bought over the counter in a market place, nor can they be acquired by attending a seminary training in a Bible college for a specific period of time. There is only one way to acquire them. Consistent cross-bearing (Luke 9:23) by walking continuously in line with the Scriptural teaching even while being led by the Holy Spirit on day-to-day basis! What is a Cross anyway that a revered Sadhu Sundar Singh went so far as to say “Cross bears those who bear the cross.”
Remember for a cross (synonymous with pain) to be carried, it necessarily has to be in touch with your being. There lies the answer. The surrounding “unavoidable” irksome circumstances, which one cannot get away from…be it a country where we live (can we leave the Country and flee if communal persecutions break out?), place of education/employment/business, marriage, parenthood or even one’s own body all constitute a cross. Surprised? No, I am not saying Holy Marriage or parenthood by itself are a cross, but whatever irksome things comes our way in faithful fulfillment of our responsibilities in these Holy relationships makes for a cross. These are the very ones the good Lord uses to shape us in to His Son’s image. Hey, the cross does not merely save us, but it shapes us as well. Realization of this truth will set you free…for “irksome circumstances” viewed with this spiritual vision (Romans 8:28) will no longer seem irksome, just as a bitter medicine tastes no longer bitter to a sick person who is appraised about its curative effects. Oh yes, let’s also remember to be thankful for the ever-bubbling joy of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37) within us, which enables us to bear the Cross cheerfully for God’s glory in this paramount sanctification process. It is in this rarefied “atmospheric” mix of joy inside-pain outside that a Christian’s character gets built until the arrival of that day in the Divine calendar when the child of God would be able to take anything in his/her stride for the Father’s glory like the Saviour did in His earthly sojourn.
Oh there are some (not all) Charismatic souls who look at the Upper room experience (the kind the Apostles had-Acts 2) as a panacea for all ills in spiritual life, and as such advocate the same as a recipe for perfection in a Christian’s life. Talk of the partially blind leading the partially blind. Worse, they boast about that experience, displaying disgusting superiority complex without an iota of evidence of the fruit of the Spirit (meekness) ,who in His grace bestowed this experience upon them at once making it obvious to the discerning ones on how much the former really need to grow to have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5-9)! If they do not wish to “unlearn” on some doctrinal matters when lovingly appraised about the complete truth on Sanctification, what else is there to be done then save sincere praying that these precious ones too would grow adequately in the Lord to realize the truth about sanctification in its entirety?
While fiery infilling of the Holy Spirit is bound to turn a coward into a someone bold as a lion in the Lord’s Ministry, like it did in the case of the Apostles (in OT times too, do not we see similar rush of “spiritual adrenaline” in the case of Charismatic judges like a Jepthah or a Samson-Judges 11:29/14:19/15:14), it’s role in perfecting a Christian in relation to the timeless Cross-bearing is at best supplementary but never substitutionary. Verily, Verily I say unto you, there is no substitute to consistent cross-bearing for becoming Christ-like. Want further proof? The apostle Peter, who wrote the above-captioned Scripture portion (1 Peter 1:5-11)…would have known a thing or three about Pentecostal experience, having played a big role on that epochal day. Did it make him perfect? No, as the event mentioned in Gal 2:11-17 still reveal some spiritual deficits in his persona. So is it any wonder that neither he or James (in their epistles), who were present in the Upper room the day the Church was born, did not invite any of their readers to a ten-day fasting and prayer meetings in the Upper-room (yes it was still there when they wrote the epistles) to initiate them into a power-packed Pentecostal experience, so that they can become Christ-like in a jiffy? Boy, if becoming Christ-like were that easy, the Master or his truthful disciples would not have prescribed the way of the Cross at all (I Peter 1:5-8/James 1:2-4). If realization of this truth doesn’t set one free from the lie that some ethereal experiences (good in themselves) make one perfect, then nothing else will…
Well, God out of His grace filled me with His “fire” on a rainy July evening in 1989 (six years after I had faithfully walked with Him as a Christian leading a life of complete consecration — 2 Tim 2:21) when I an erstwhile timid (to public speaking/activities) Christian rose up to deliver my first sermon. So astounding was that experience that after I delivered an authoritative sermon, with an ethereal fire burning in my heart, I was afraid to use even the washroom for some hours for fear of dousing that “holy fire” by some “unholy” act. Did I achieve spiritual nirvana after that experience at once becoming Christ-like? No, I would be lying if I say I did. So even at the cost of sounding repetitive, let me reiterate there is no substitute for faithful, daily cross-bearing with the Saviour’s power (I Cor 4:20) on the road to complete sanctification. Salvation is the miracle of the moment, becoming Christ-like is a life-long process.
Prayer: Father we praise Thee for the constant joy of the indwelling Holy Spirit enabling us to bear the Cross cheerfully and thus be moulded into Your Son’s image. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
An unworthy servant
J and SM Ministries
(To access the entire “Truth and Nothing but the Truth: A New Years’ Message for 2016” mini-series, please click here.)