The joy that comes when one accepts the gift of God’s forgiveness by faith in Jesus Christ and enters into New Life is often so amazing that it is hard to express. The Bible speaks of this new relationship as “justification”, that is, being justified, or made righteous, in Christ as He takes the penalty of one’s sin upon Himself. This act was fully completed at Christ’s death on the cross, which we read about in God’s Word – the Bible – at 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake (God) made (Christ) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” This is then applied to one’s life personally as he or she trusts in Jesus Christ and follows Him with their heart, mind, soul and strength.
Then comes the “get to” of living out the Christian life. This is the area where Christians often struggle, thinking that the process of being “set apart for God’s holy purposes” (being sanctified; being made holy; growing in the character of Jesus Christ) depends entirely upon the individual’s efforts. Yes, there is work to do, but again, as God tells us in the Bible – His Word – at Philippians 2:12b-13, “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
Just like justification, so too is sanctification God’s work. He is accomplishing His good and glorious purposes in and through the life of the Christian believer by the power of the Holy Spirit through the unique character and personality of the individual, and all for the Heavenly Father’s glory and the believer’s blessing. But it is actually so much more than this.
Consider these words from a recent blog post at www.challies.com:
The means God uses to sanctify us are a gift to the rest of the church so others can be encouraged by our faith, so they can be motivated by our endurance, so they can weep with us who weep and rejoice with us who rejoice. A man’s confidence in God’s provision through an extended period of unemployment is a gift that strengthens those who witness it. A woman’s hope through miscarriage is a gift that serves others who will soon endure a similar trial. A widow’s godly grief models confidence in the coming resurrection to those who weep with her even as she weeps.
Focusing specifically on the purposes of God in suffering, Ligon Duncan says this: “Suffering is God’s instrument to bring about the maturity of the whole church. God ordains for our suffering, as a participation in the suffering of Christ’s body, to bring about in the church the purposes of Christ’s affliction. In other words, sometimes God appoints his children to suffer so that the whole body will become mature.” ~Tim Challies
Wow! God has designed the very challenges of people’s lives to grow them closer to Him, to more radiantly display their faith in Jesus Christ (or to draw them to Himself by faith in His Son), and to build up (read “strengthen” and “mature”) the local church.
As one author wrote once, “Don’t waste your suffering.” Grow closer to Christ through it, and pave the way for others to do the same.
Praying for you, dear friends, and looking forward to Sunday!
~Pastor Sean and Tess