Archive | September, 2013

Sifting, Sin and Sanctification

30 Sep

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Yesterday was a watershed moment for me. You will find below the encouraging thoughts the Lord gave me, compiled from both the Sunday school lesson and sermon yesterday, with some key verses (that are examples of, but by no means exhaustive defenses of the truths illustrated). I am grateful for the faithful and sound teaching of men like Dr. Bruce Ware (for the Sunday school lesson) and Pastor John Kimbell (for the sermon).

The Sunday school lesson was on the positional (already secured) and progressive (not yet attained but in process) aspects of sanctification (meaning becoming like Christ, especially in His sinless perfection) (various New Testament passages, mostly from Paul’s epistles).

The sermon was about Peter’s denial of Jesus (Luke 22:31-34, 54-62), with some parallels drawn with the record of Job’s trials (Job 1, 2:1-10), and then Peter’s restoration (John 21).

  1. Jesus does not over-estimate us. He knows our weaknesses. He is not surprised by how, when or where we fail.
  2. As the redeemed people of God, our failure is mitigated. It is not as profound, complete, absolute or extensive as it could be. Jesus prays for us, just as He prayed for Peter (Romans 8:34).
  3. Our suffering in trials is limited. God sets the boundaries of our “sifting”. Satan asked to sift Peter for the purpose of causing him to fall, much like he asked to test Job. But his boundaries in which to exercise this “sifting” are limited by the divine decree of God (see Job’s story, and Peter’s). Satan desires to do everything he can to ultimately destroy the people of God by causing their faith to fail absolutely and finally. God does not allow this. He is the one who keeps our faith from ultimately failing (Jude 1:24).
  4. Though Satan’s purpose is to destroy us, God uses the trials and sufferings in our lives for the purpose of sanctifying us, through our failures (sin) and suffering. (Hebrews 12:3-12)
  5. In light of this truth then, in Christ, even our sin and failures have a redemptive purpose. They are allowed in order to sanctify us. Peter was self-confident, but when he failed and lost his self-confidence, he was restored and his shattered self-confidence was replace with Christ-confidence. Peter had lost all self-esteem, but he gained Christ-esteem. God allowed him to be “sifted” and to fail, for a time, in order to conform him more to the image of His son — no longer trusting in his own strength, but in the unfailing power of Jesus (James 1:2-4).
  6. The process of becoming more like Christ is sanctification. The purpose of sanctification is to enable us to see Jesus more, until finally we will behold him full-on, in all His unveiled glory. And the more we see Jesus, the more sanctified (like Him) we become. All of Scripture and the work of God in our life point to this one thing: to see Jesus. And when we see Him, and because we see Him, we will be like Him (1 John 3:2).

In summary then, everything, absolutely everything, EVEN our own SIN serves a redemptive purpose in our lives, through Christ, that we may see Him more, and more, and more, until that final day, when we behold His glorious, astounding, creation-remaking beauty, unveiled in our sight.

THIS is simply astonishingthat Christ would turn the very outworking of our wicked hearts and rebellion into that which no longer condemns us but is part of the very process of our final redemption and salvation. In Christ when we repent, our sin no longer damns us before God because our debt has been propitiated (set aside) by the payment He made through His death. Instead, our sin is a useful tool in His hands for our own sanctification. Is there ANYTHING more ASTOUNDING than this? What a glorious Gospel, what a gracious God. Dear believer, never, ever get over the work of Christ on your behalf and in you!

Caution — lest this lead you to think that we can therefore sin unashamedly and in abundance, with no restraint, read Romans 6. We are no longer slaves to sin, now that we are in Christ. Therefore we are to do all we can to exercise ourselves for the cause of righteousness.

Conclusion: Give thanks in trials. Give thanks even when you suffer the effects of your own sinful failures. As difficult as it is to do, give thanks in all things, because Jesus is using them for your greatest and ultimate good.

On Bikinis, Swimwear and the topic of “modest” clothing in general

30 Sep
Young Woman Shopping for Clothes

I quit wearing bikinis shortly after I got married. Marriage opened my eyes to a whole different perspective on things, and I just couldn’t, in good conscience, wear one in public anymore. While I wish I had the time/discipline to get back the “bikini” body I had (prior to the birth of two children, three miscarriages and various health hang-ups), the only time I use the one I still have is as underwear under outdoor clothing for things like rafting or splashing in spray fountains at the park or such. I think the human body is beautiful, in many shapes and sizes. It’s an amazing work of art and a fabulous display of the Creator’s creativity. But in the Fall, sin complicated a lot of things, and mankind lost the right to expose the human body as we think fitting. We neither govern our own bodies properly without sin, nor do those around us govern themselves sinlessly toward it.

Clothing is a good and gracious gift from a God who knows our weaknesses and seeks to help us in the midst of them. There is a wide variance allowable for what is considered “modest”, and this can vary considerably from culture to culture and time period to time period. But I think the best guidelines for what we wear are 1) that we are not self-conscious in our choice of clothing for our various activities, 2) that our clothing works to reveal character rather than skin or “shapeliness” and 3) that areas of our bodies typically deemed “private” and “sexual”, especially within the culture around us, are sufficiently covered so as to not inadvertently be exposed to the eyes of those around us.

Different aspects of the human body trip up different people  in different cultures. It is simply kind and considerate to strive to be as little of a stumbling block as possible to those around us, regardless of our personal preferences or comfort levels in clothing. I understand in some cultures, this can be exceedingly difficult to discern and do (I think particularly of some muslim cultures where the act of discerning between what is conforming to an ungodly culture and what is exercising Christian charity toward the culture in modes of dress can be complex). But, as women, and particularly Christian wives, we are charged in Scripture not to seek to make as much of a statement about ourselves as our bodies and/or clothing allow, but to make a world-changing, life-altering statement about the Gospel through our character and demeanor.

1 Peter 3: 1-6 ~ In the same way, wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, even if some disobey the Christian message, they may be won over without a message by the way their wives live when they observe your pure, reverent lives. Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes. Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes. For in the past, the holy women who put their hope in God also beautified themselves in this way, submitting to their own husbands, just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. You have become her children when you do what is good and are not frightened by anything alarming. (emphasis mine)

(Disclaimer: The photo at the top of this post, as far as I can tell, is free for the posting on a personal blog as long as the photo credit is showing. If I am wrong, please let me know so I can remove it. Thanks.)