[Since my wife went into the hospital May 7th, for back surgery on the 8th, I’ll be doing my own editing for a couple of weeks. Please excuse any missed errors or obscurities.]
Ephesians 4:22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires.
Human beings are very strange. We either want to do things all by ourselves, so that we can take credit for them, or we want someone else to do them for us entirely. Neither of those leads to the most growth and blessing for us. Sanctification is certainly a case in point. Jesus has already done the “heavy lifting” for us, by taking the penalty for our sin on the cross and then rising from the grave, but we still have a choice to make. We can choose to receive and walk in the holiness and righteousness He has provided, or we can choose to wallow in the world like we used to do. We are indeed saved by grace through faith, but failing to walk in what God has provided for us in Christ cuts us off from untold blessings. Paul reiterates this message many times, perhaps most famously in Romans 12:2. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” That transformation is exactly what he is talking about here. We aren’t to “go with the flow,” (unless it’s the flow of the Holy Spirit) but rather choose to move closer to God, to the example that Jesus set for us. Frankly, that can be hard work, but as Paul told the Philippians, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Peer pressure can be powerful indeed, but we often don’t realize how much our peers would really like an example they could follow to lift them out of the junk. We are called to be that example!
Of course this applies as much to me as it does to anyone else. I have felt like an outsider to at least some degree all of my life, so in some ways it might be easier for me, but I have done things to try to prove I was “one of the guys” more often than I like to remember. My sanctification certainly isn’t complete yet, and it won’t be, as long as I am in this body, but I am grateful for how far the Lord has brought me. As a pastor, I am deeply concerned with the sanctification of those in the church. I can’t do it for them! However, I can speak the truth to them in love, and I must do so with faithfulness and gentleness and plain, stubborn persistence. I must remember how patient the Lord has been with me, and exercise that same patience toward them. At the same time, I must remember that genuine love is not weak; I am not to condone lifestyles that don’t follow the Lord. I am reminded of something John said in one of his letters: “It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us.” (2 John 1:4, emphasis added) I’m not to be depressed because so few are at 100% – I’m not at 100% – but rather rejoice in each step of progress made by each individual, so that together we may be pleasing to God.
Father, thank You for this reminder. There’s a lot going on, and I can hardly keep track of my own life, much less that of each person in the church. Thank You that You have no such limitation! I pray that I would be active in appropriating and walking in all that You have for me, not just for my sake but for the blessing of everyone around me, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!