“Indeed, the more sanctified the person is, the more conformed he is to the image of his Savior, the more he must recoil against every lack of conformity to the holiness of God. The deeper his apprehension of the majesty of God, the greater the intensity of his love to God, the more persistent his yearning for the attainment of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, the more conscious will he be of the gravity of the sin that remains and the more poignant will be his detestation of it….Was this not the effect in all the people of God as they came into closer proximity to the revelation of God’s holiness.”
~John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied
As a Christian, I believe it is essential for me, and for other Christians, to seek greater sanctification. Christian sanctification refers to the process in which a follower of Christ is “set apart” as holy and sacred. In scripture, the Greek word for sanctification is the same for holiness, “hagios”—again, meaning “a separation.” When researching the topic, it seems that theologians commonly reference three roles—or phases—for how sanctification functions (or appears) in our life.
Three commonly accepted stages of sanctification. First, sanctification initially occurs in our life at the moment of salvation—when we place our faith in Christ. Based on my reformed theological standpoint, once a member of the body of Christ, we are forever set apart for relationship with God. Our heavenly Father accepts us through the sacrifice of His Son. Christ’s holiness is credited to those who believe in Him (John 1:12; 1 Peter 3:18; Titus 3:5).
Sanctification, however, refers to more than our moment of conversion. It is a life-long process of conforming to the character of Christ—imitating our Lord (Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 John 2:6). This process of becoming more Christ-like represents the second role, or phase, of sanctification. When Christians are talking about sanctification, I would suggest that it is this phase and corresponding function to which we are typically referring.
The final phase of sanctification represents the moment of complete separation from the presence of evil; becoming a perfect reflection of our Lord. The question of when we enter into this final phase of sanctification is disputed amongst theological positions—as in, is it possible for it to happen in this life or must it happen in the next? While some Christians believe that they can achieve this state of sanctification during their lifetime, I tend to agree with those who believe that this will happen with His second coming—or rather, in the life to come. In other words, I believe that this phase of sanctification corresponds with glorification (Colossians 3:4; 1 John 3:2), and that such a state is only achievable through a complete, direct connection with God (and subsequently, a complete separation from this life of sin).
Therefore, to summarize sanctification as I understand it: Sanctification begins the moment a Christian is “saved (conversion);” during their life, a Christian will progressively—though, not necessarily always in a linear progression—become more like Christ (conformity); culminating with glorification, when a Christian becomes a complete likeness to their Lord (glorification). In even simpler terms, sanctification has a point of initiation (conversion), a period of development (conforming to Christ), and a point of completion. Once saved, we are somewhere on this continuum of sanctification (see Figure 1 below, click to enlarge).
Examining sanctification through love, wisdom, and relationship. While I have often examined different aspects of my Christian faith—regularly visiting topics pertaining to love (see HERE and HERE), wisdom (see HERE and HERE), and relationship (see HERE and HERE)—an elaboration on Christian sanctification is curiously absent. What I write herein intends to remedy that omission. The following explains Christian sanctification through the tripartite association between biblical love, heavenly wisdom, and Christ-like relationship. Implied within the process is the need for faith—we must first be a true follower of Christ. I believe that as we grow in our practice of biblical love, heavenly wisdom, and Christ-like relationship—so does our faith in Christ. I believe this perspective is supported in scripture when Christ says:
“5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit [relationship], for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you [wisdom], ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you [relationship]. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit [relationship], and so prove to be My disciples. 9 Just as the Father has loved Me [relationship], I have also loved you; abide in my love [love]. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love [love]; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments [wisdom/relationship] and abide in His love [love]” (John 15:5-10, NASB).
The use of visuals. When trying to learn any process, I find that visual representations often serve to further my understanding. Subsequently, I have developed three figures that serve to represent the conversion, conforming, and glorification phases of Christian sanctification. By no means do I consider my depictions of the process as a completely inclusive and exhaustive representation of how sanctification functions. Rather, I am only looking at the process through the use of elements/concepts that I believe are its most prominent.
Purpose. It is my hope that, what I do share, is helpful for Christians for better understanding the sanctification process; ultimately providing them insight on how they may aggressively further it within their own lives. The rationale for this blog post’s title is that I believe all followers of Christ should be focused on increasing their faith—conforming to Christ. This conformity should arise from a desire to please God; conforming obedience motivated through love. While it is my belief that my depiction of the sanctification process remains true to scripture, I encourage you to challenge anything found herein that you believe fails to meet such a standard.
PRE-SANCTIFICATION STATE: A DEATH “LIVING” WITHIN SIN
The efforts of the devil, the world, and the flesh—all representing sin—function to keep us from faith in the Lord, and at minimum, impede the sanctification process for those who come to believe and follow Christ. The word often used for “sin” in the bible is the Greek word “hamartia,” which means “missing the mark.” Since early Christian times, the seven deadly sins—its current form being a revision by Pope Gregory I (aka Gregory “the Great”) of Evagrius Ponticus’ eight evil thoughts in AD 590—has been used as a classification system for sin identification in an individual’s life. Listings of sins within the bible can be found in Proverbs 6:16-19 and Galatians 5:19-21. The latter listing described by Paul more resemble the seven deadly sins coined by Gregory the Great.
The seven deadly sins are as follows:
The seven deadly sins are not discrete from other sins, but act as a typology; portraying conceptual origins of the others. They can be further grouped into three broader categories:
- Lustful appetite (gluttony, lust)
- Irascibility (wrath)
- Intellect (vanity, pride, sloth/discouragement)
Ultimately, we need to know what represents wrongdoing because “all wrongdoing is sin” (1 John 5:17). We are warned that the heart when not directed by the Holy Spirit—as in the heart is left to its own devices—is a wicked thing (Jeremiah 17:9). And as believers not yet fully conformed to Christ—being fully washed and renewed by the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:2)—sin still has influence on our thoughts and behaviors. The difference between a Christian and a non-believer, however, is that a Christian is capable of resisting temptation through dependence on the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16). Albeit, the presence of unrepentant sin in one’s past can have serious repercussions on the sanctification process. Furthermore, if we do not trust in the goodness of our Lord—embracing His forgiveness and mercy—even a repentant heart can struggle with guilt; becoming more concerned about performance than love.
Sin distorts the Truth of the Word [Jesus], and leads us off the righteous path. Therefore, the better we know the Word [wisdom] (2 Timothy 3:16; Joshua 1:8; John 14:21), abide in biblical love (Matthew 22:37-39; John 13:34-35), and engage in strong Christian community [relationship/accountability] (Galatians 6:1; Hebrews 10:24; Matthew 18:20), the less influence sin will have within our lives; trusting that our Lord will keep us on the straight path (Proverbs 3:5-6). While the devil works to turn the Truth upside down, the Cross keeps everything aright.
EXAMINING BIBLICAL TEACHING OF LOVE, WISDOM, AND RELATIONSHIP
We must first have some understanding of what it is to love, possess wisdom, and engage in loving relationship as scripturally defined. Moreover, we must accept that these three aspects of Christianity are not in isolation from one another. In a biblical sense, to exhibit:
- love requires wisdom and relationship
- wisdom requires love and relationship
- relationship requires love and wisdom
The Christian concepts associated with these words are interdependent—they function together. As I attempt to provide a Christian understanding of each concept, it is essential for the other concepts to be mentioned. It becomes easy to speak in circles about these concepts. Therefore, expect some redundancy within the following three sections; though, each section will be contextually focused towards the concept for which it is explicitly dedicated.
Biblical love. First, it is important to emphasize that a Christian perspective of love is not synonymous with a worldly perspective. Love is not a commodity (1 John 2:15-17), nor is it associated with lust (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5). Unfortunately, many people—including professed Christians—treat it as such. If love is considered a commodity, there is no reason to be forgiving or merciful. While love desires intimate relationship with God and others (Psalm 63:1-11; Jeremiah 33:3; 2 Corinthians 3:1-18; Mark 12:30-31), it does not objectify that person. Neither does love act upon worldly fear. Scripture repeatedly states that we should not fear things of the world (Proverbs 23:4; Isaiah 41:10; Psalm 56:11). Rather, we are encouraged to trust in the Lord and His love (Proverbs 3:5-6); depending on His gift of the Holy Spirit—not “a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind [wisdom]” (2 Timothy 1:7, NKJV). The only fear we should possess is a fear of God’s wrath—a reverential awe of His glory and fear of being outside of His love (Luke 22:41-43). To experience God’s wrath would necessitate being without love, for scripture states that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Anyone who “does not know God, does not know love” (1 John 4:8).
I do not believe that the statement of “God is love” is hyperbole. To understand that God is love explains the need for Christ in our lives. Jesus is called Immanuel (Matthew 1:22-23; Isaiah 7:14), which means “God with us.” Being the Son of God, Jesus is the manifestation of God as man—God in the flesh. Subsequently, Jesus is the manifestation of perfect love; being in complete union with the Father and Holy Spirit. And as Paul shares with the Romans, “love fulfills the law” (Romans 13:10). The love to which he refers is God’s love—Christ. “…God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
As the Son of God—part of the Holy Trinity—Jesus fulfills the law on our behalf. It is for this reason that Jesus came to earth. He died for our sins, sacrificing Himself so that through Him we could become righteous in the sight of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). This sacrificing nature of love is emphasized by Jesus when he says, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13, NASB). Thus, love is sacrificial, which requires us to exhibit humility, placing the needs of others above our own, while still acknowledging our own worth; being cherished by God. By grace (Ephesians 2:8), He has adopted us as sons and daughters (Galatians 3:26, 4:6-7) through Christ—we have His love.
It is necessary to clarify, however, that meeting the needs of others does not correspond with doing whatever someone asks us to do for them. Needs and wants are not the same thing. Moreover, if we meet another’s “need” that requires us to act outside of His Word, then we would be enabling them to rest in sin—and we would be following them instead of God. God is sufficient (Psalm 46). He is our only need. This is why it is necessary at times for us to confront one another. Love confronts (Proverbs 27:5; Matthew 18:15; Luke 17:3; James 5:19; Matthew 16:22).
Further, love is patient—it endures suffering. Christ was denied by Peter three times (Luke 22:54-62). Yet, Peter is the “rock” on which Christ builds His church, giving him the “keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:7-19). Christ loved Peter, and was patient with Him; allowing Him to mature in His faith, and learn how to love like Him.
Paul speaks to Christ’s character when he provides the most thorough description of love in the bible. We, however, must remember that we currently see “in a mirror dimly” (1 Corinthians 13:12), and that we will not know fully until we our glorified—the process of sanctification completed within us:
4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:4-13).
Therefore, to love is to be like Christ. This requires us to know Christ (wisdom), and to possess a mind and heart like Christ in our thoughts and behaviors towards God and others (relationship). Ultimately, it necessitates conforming to Christ (Romans 12:2)
Biblical wisdom. It is through knowing the person of Christ that we understand how Christ loves God and His Church—His body of believers. Jesus is the Word made flesh (John 1:14). While the Gospel shares the “good news” that Christ has conquered sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:55-57), the entire bible points to Christ. “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, [and] for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Thus, we are encouraged to know scripture, to meditate on it day and night (Joshua 1:8). Scripture provides us the path to walk if we are to follow in Christ’s footsteps. It trains us to recognize the difference between good and evil—to avoid temptation and make good decisions. It helps us communicate wisdom to others out of love. Most importantly, it provides us a means to know Christ and pursue relationship with Him.
In the book of John, Jesus says that “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and disclose Myself to him” (John 14:21). Paul, in writing to the Galatians provides clarification for keeping God’s commandments. He writes that “…the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14). This requires us to pursue loving relationship, but not a pluralistic, hippie kind of love. Rather, we are to pursue relationship with a Christ-like love—that which is shared with us through scripture. It is Christ’s love that fulfills the law (Romans 13:10).
This does not mean that we are expected—without error—to successfully keep His commandments (Isaiah 53:6; Romans 3:23). If that was possible, then there would never had been a need for Christ’s crucifixion. A performance mindset is dangerous, for it encourages us to adhere to an independent and self-righteousness nature. During biblical times, this was the approach the Scribes and Pharisees took towards scripture. Jesus rebukes them for their hypocrisy:
“27 For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:27-28).
The Scribes and Pharisees were trying to play God, rather than serve God. They claimed authority and understanding of scripture. They passed judgment on the righteousness of their fellow Jews. They were in positions of honor. Yet their interpretations of scripture were not based in love. Many of Jesus’ teachings were to clarify the purpose of the law—to share it under the lens of His love. A well-known example is the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), which significantly broadened the accepted definition of “neighbor.”
Christ’s parables consistently contradicted the interpretations provided by the Scribes and Pharisees. They—believing themselves to be the religious authority—accused Jesus of heresy; having Him crucified. In their self-righteousness, pride, and desire for power, they were unable to comprehend that Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). He communicated that the purpose of the law was (and is) to share His story of love for us, and provide us a means to become like Him; bringing us into right relationship with our Lord. In their self-righteousness, they never knew Jesus, even though they claimed to do His will—God’s will. And He was in their midst!
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)”
The above scripture also cautions us about creating a “personal Jesus.” We are to conform to Christ’s image, not create for ourselves an image of Christ that conforms to us. This is much more likely to happen if we do not look to His Word to know Him.
It should be apparent by now—from my limited perspective—that biblical love and wisdom are completely correlated, in that to exhibit perfect love requires perfect wisdom—and vice versa. Again, this is why a Christian strives to grow in Christ’s likeness. Only He is perfect in His love and in His wisdom. And being perfect in His love and His wisdom, He was able to perfectly love in relationship.
Christ-like relationship. God is capable of having perfect relationship within Himself, being three-persons-in-one: the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Such relationship is perfect because God is perfect. We, as his followers, are not perfect. It is in our relationships where this becomes most evident.
Unlike God, we cannot engage in loving relationship without the presence of others. Before His crucifixion, Jesus tells His disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34-35, NASB). Our love is to be all encompassing. We are to even love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). As people of faith—indwelt by the Holy Spirt (Galatians 5:16, 25)—we should desire to bear fruit in every good work (Colossians 1:10). In carrying out our Lord’s purpose, we serve as ambassadors for Christ (Galatians 5:20). Our Lord tells us that “where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am in their midst” (Matthew 18:20, NASB). Experiencing the love of God, we should take joy in sharing the gospel with others—serving as His hands and feet (Matthew 28:16-20). We are to possess servant hearts, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). We are to forgive one another (Colossians 3:13), just as our Lord has forgiven us. We are to exhibit “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” with one another (Colossians 3:12). We are to exhibit meekness towards others (Ephesians 4:2); treating one another more highly than ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4). Additionally, we are to teach and correct one another (Colossians 3:16), confront one another out of love (Proverbs 27:5-6), maintain friendships with one another (Proverbs 17:17), pray for one another (James 5:16), and carry one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). Simply, we are to function together, one for another:
“And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NASB).
It is important to note that while we create community—and grow the body of Christ—by spreading the gospel, there are different levels of relationship that we are to possess with others. We are to be wise in our relationships with non-believers; encouraged to be “shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves,” for we are be sent into the world “like sheep in the midst of wolves” (Matthew 10:16). We are not to be of the world (John 17:16). If we are not conforming to Christ, then we are conforming to the world (Romans 12:2). Our closest relationships should buoy us, and strengthen us in our faith (Galatians 6:9-10). As “iron sharpens iron” our closest relationships should refine our faith; helping us to better conform to our Lord’s likeness. Though, regardless of the level of depth in any particular relationship—all our relationships should be founded on our faith in Christ—loving others as He loves us. “We love because he first love us” (1 John 4:19). And it is by our love—His love—that people will know we are His followers (John 13:35).
Thus, to summarize this section, we are to demonstrate our faith in Christ by wisely engaging in loving relationships.
SANCTIFICATION: FROM CONVERSION TO GLORIFICATION
Now that we have some background on the three Christian concepts of love, wisdom, and relationship, we shall examine them within the sanctification process; looking at the three phases of conversion, conformity, and glorification.
Conversion. I believe that the sanctification process is initiated once an individual comes to faith in Christ (Hebrews 11:6). The Lord offers relationship (Revelation 3:20) to those who accept His call (John 1:12). Though, to have faith, I believe one must experience and accept His love for them; thus, God’s love comes first. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, reminds Christians that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Thus, from God’s love comes faith. And with faith comes salvation
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24, NASB).
Maybe that is why Christ tells his followers that with faith as small as a mustard seed they can move mountains (Matthew 17:20), and trees will uproot themselves and plant themselves in the sea (Luke 17:6). Further, Christ implies that His disciples’ faith—just like a mustard seed—can experience significant growth. While a mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds on earth (Mark 4:31), He emphasizes that it can grow to become a tree on which birds can perch (Luke 13:19).
Therefore, once we possess faith in the Lord—openly experiencing and accepting His gift of love (1 Corinthians 2:12); receiving the Holy Spirit—we are able to respond in love towards Him and others. With faith, we too can begin to love as He loves (albeit, not perfectly). And maybe that is why Paul says, “But now faith, hope, and love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13, NASB). If one is not abiding in the Lord’s love, he or she is incapable of possessing faith. Subsequently, there is no hope. The below figure (see Figure 2, click to enlarge) represents the moment of conversion for an individual into faith.
It is reasonable to presume that sin still holds significant influence within our behaviors as a new Christian—though, it can now be resisted with help from the Holy Spirit. Having accepted the Lord’s love and believing in His goodness (through faith), they possess a desire to know Him more—to pursue relationship with Him. And as one comes to know the Lord better, he or she will realize the need for healthy community; seeking to establish Christ-like relationships with God and others in accordance with Jesus’ broad definition of “neighbor.” The following section will speak further about this second phase of the sanctification process: conforming to Christ.
Conformity. Building from the prior section, loving God and loving others (Mark 12:30-31) serves as sanctification’s launching point. There now exists in the individual a desire to know God better (wisdom) and pursue a healthy, loving relationship with Him. This leads to the obvious question—how?
Jesus tells his disciples to love one another as He has loved them (John 13:34-35). Christians acknowledge Jesus as the Word made flesh (John 1:14), and are able to learn more about Him by reading scripture—the entire Bible, not just the Gospel. Thus, while to be like Christ requires one to ultimately love like Christ; exhibiting love like Christ requires one to know Christ—to know the Word [scripture]. The New Testament tells Christians that Jesus fulfills the law (Matthew 5:17; Romans 10:4). Moreover, love also fulfills the law (Romans 13:10). Does this contradict the accepted Christian belief that faith in Christ is the only means of salvation—restored relationship with God? The answer: NO. As mentioned earlier, Jesus is God’s love. We need God’s love to have faith.
It is through knowing the person of Christ that a believer understands how Christ loves God and His Church—His body of believers. Thus, Christians are encouraged to know scripture (2 Timothy 3:16), to meditate on it day and night (Joshua 1:8). With scriptural knowledge and a loving heart, Christians are capable of obeying the Law. It is not that they succeed in meeting God’s standard—all fall short (Romans 3:23), and have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6). Rather, Christian’s strive to obey God’s commandments because they embrace God’s love for them and desire to please Him (John 14:21). Adhering to the Law—God’s commandments—demonstrate their love of God (John 14:21). As the Greatest Commandment—to love God and others—fulfills the entire Law, we need to focus on more than spiritual disciplines such as prayer; though, these are important. They also need to focus on developing community with other believers. As we become more knowledgeable of scriptural teaching and apply it within our relationships (exhibiting wisdom), they will understand how to better love others and please God by bringing Him glory. Their rebellious desires lesson, and their obedience increases; becoming more like our Lord (John 3:30). The below figure (see Figure 3, click to enlarge) shows how biblical love, wisdom, and relationship become more tightly knit within our character, changing our heart; manifesting itself in our thoughts and behaviors. Our faith increases, sin’s presence in our life decreases, and we become more fruitful as we walk more consistently in the Spirt (Galatians 5:16-26)
Now, let us talk about the best part of the process: our glorification!
Glorification. Glorification is God’s future and final work on us, transforming our mortal forms into eternal ones—separating completely from sin and death:
“42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).
Christ tells His followers that He has a place for them in His Father’s house, and He will return for us:
“1 Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going” (John 14:1-4, ESV).
As Jesus conquered death, being resurrected in a glorified body—so too, shall we be glorified. He is “the first fruits of those who are asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20), suggesting others (Christians) will be glorified with His second coming:
“2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-4).
Therefore, with faith, we can trust in God’s promise of an eternity with Him. We will enjoy Him and praise Him, a blessing we received by the grace of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Sin and death will no longer be present. All we be perfect (see Figure 4, click to enlarge).
But what about until then? Well, I have some thoughts…
CONCLUDING THOUGHTS: IMPLICATIONS AND APPLICATION
While promised salvation and eventual glorification, enjoying our Lord for all eternity in perfect splendor, we still have work to do. Sometimes, especially living in such an individualistic culture, it is easy to focus solely on the “what’s in it for me?” If truly walking in the Spirit, we should desire to continually know God better; seeking loving relationship with Him and others. Moreover, we should seek to resemble Him more and more; bringing Him glory in our work—bearing fruit. Also, it is essential that we realize that our salvation is a gift of our Lord. We do not earn it. Thus, we should praise Him incessantly, and share the good news with everyone with whom we come into contact. We should take our role as His ambassadors—as His hands and feet—seriously. Yet, sometimes, already knowing the outcome, we forget that we are still in a spiritual war. We must fight for God’s glory, and serve to bring His gospel to those who have yet to hear:
“9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:9-10, NKJV).
“16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, NKJV).
Also, we should consider love, wisdom, and relationship to be like three legs to a stool. To be able to securely rest in our faith—abiding in His love—we must continually work towards refining all three within our life. We must actively love God and others. We must focus on spiritual disciplines—regularly setting aside time in our lives for praying and studying the Word. And we must also share the Word, rather than withhold it from others. We must spur one another on to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25). If one “leg” of our stool is weak, we will assuredly stumble.
Let us consider just a few ways these legs provide one another balance:
- Our efforts to love others will lead us to engage in relationship and delve into scripture
- Our relationships teach us how to apply scripture better; allowing us to gain wisdom from the knowledge obtained during study. We can love more like Christ as a result
- Our study of His Word provides us knowledge about our Lord; helping us engage Him in relationship
Therefore, be wary of becoming the seed that fell upon rocky ground (Luke 8:13).
If we are not continually striving to grow in our faith, we will backslide. In a society as secular as the one we live in currently, it is hard for me to believe that we can keep ourselves from slowly conforming to the world without actively pursuing conformity with our Lord. We must not waver in unbelief, but be strengthened in our faith—trusting in God’s promises—looking to our Lord as the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6) we seek:
“20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform” (Romans 4:20-21, NASB).
“6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6, NASB).