Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Remembering and Sanctification

Many Evangelicals claim that a simple confession of faith in Christ is all that is required for salvation from Hell and the highest gift of eternal life and exaltation in the kingdom of God. While Paul clearly says that if a man confesses with his lips that Christ raised him from the dead he will be saved, this simple confession does not guarantee the same reward as someone who has diligently labored in the vineyard. While it doesn't matter how long a person has labored, Christ is abundantly clear that when the Master of the vineyard comes, He will only reward those found working and doing the will of the Father.

The Bible discusses many terms such as justification, sanctification, salvation, eternal life, etc. If I am not mistaken, I seem to consistently hear many of my Evangelical friends argue that water baptism, taking the Sacrament of the Lords Supper, or doing any work in Christ's Church will not make any difference in the world to come. Many of my friends seem to believe that after you have confessed Christ as your Savior that Christ's righteousness is immediately imputed to you and you are immediately considered justified, sanctified, born again, saved, have the constant indwelling of the Holy Ghost, and are an automatic and guaranteed heir of Eternal Life.

While some of this is true, some of it absolutely is not. What is true here? It is absolutely true that no works whatsoever are necessary to be justified, saved and receive the Holy Ghost. This part of the plan is by the grace of God. Remember that all men are corruptible and have sinned and have turned away from God. Remember that man can do no good thing on His own. And remember also that Christ has promised that by His infinite grace He will reach down to rescue each and every one of us. Christ has promised that he is standing at the door and knocking. Christ has said that no man can come unto Christ except the Father draws him. So, what are we talking about. We are talking about who makes the first move towards our salvation. Obviously man makes the first move away from God towards damnation. But God promises us that He would give every person on Earth a chance to be saved by grace alone and not dependant on circumstance or any effort of our own.

But after Christ has stretched forth His hand to rescue us and knocked on our door, and after we have opened our door up to allow Christ to enter. Then what? Now to recognize Christ and open our door and let Him in requires that we be empowered by the Holy Ghost. But if we are unclean sinners, how could the Holy Ghost dwell in us. Well, the Bible promises that if we have faith and no more than desire to believe, that that is sufficient to receive the grace of Christ, have Christ's righteousness imputed to us so that the Holy Ghost can enter in us. If it wasn't for this Justification by grace, the Holy Ghost could never enter us, and we would never be empowered to let Christ into our life. This is how God draws us to Christ. This is precisely why Cornelius was able to receive the Holy Ghost and the spiritual gifts of visions before being water baptized. Had he not received the Holy Ghost first, he could never have been empowered to be water baptized. But that doesn't mean water baptism is now obsolete.

So, Christ has reached out to rescue us, and we had a desire to believe, and we became Justified by God's infinite grace such that the Holy Ghost and the love of Christ has entered into us such that we recognized Christ's hand and gospel as truth, I ask is that the end? Have we arrived? Or is this just the beginning or is there more ahead? There is more ahead. Paul talked a lot about being saved by grace and not works. Paul talked a lot about being born again by the transformative power of Christ's love and Holy Spirit. But remember that Paul is always talking about being saved in the past tense. Paul was saved (past tense) by grace and not by works. Paul and the other Apostles never say that man will be saved in the future by grace alone. In fact, again and again, the Apostles continually say that we will be judged by our works at the Final Judgement when we stand before God. So, it seems very clear that this salvation that Paul is talking about is the initial rescue, the initial reaching out by God resulting in Justification which is by the infinite grace of God alone and not works.

So, if Paul is saying that God will rescue us by His grace alone but that we will be judged and rewarded Eternal Life based on our works in some future day, then what more must we do? How does it all work? As I have said before many times, even though the Bible says we will be rewarded and judged according to our works, the reward of Eternal Life still is a gift of grace that is unearned. Why is it unearned? Because by being Justified by Christ, and receiving the Holy Ghost, it is God who inspires and empowers us to good works and not us. All we have to do is allow it. Christ reaches out to knock on our door, He empowers us to recognize that it is Him knocking, and he empowers us to open the door, but the decision to open it is still ours. God does not force His will upon us. Our will is our own and it is the only thing that we can and must contribute towards our salvation. But even any good work and any future gifts are just a manifestation of Christ in us and is still just a manifestation of His infinite grace. It is Christ that does the works in us. We must simply allow him to remodel.

And that brings up the next part of this post. What about the remodeling? The Bible says very clearly that the unrighteous and no unclean thing can dwell in the presence of the Father. And while Christ's blood can fool the Holy Ghost, the Father can spot a whited sepulchre when He sees one. And so, the Bible talks at length about another subject related to Justification. This important term is Sanctification. This term is also used interchangeably with perfection, perfecting, and unification, or becoming one. Now, many of my Evangelical friends claim that this happens automatically at the same time as Justification upon the initial confession of Christ and the initial reception of the Holy Ghost. Now, much of this is true. When a person becomes born again and first feel the Spirit and love of Christ in their life, they undergo a magnificent change of heart towards God. But I am going to discuss why this initial change of heart, although miraculous, still isn't enough.

To understand the difference between Justification and Sanctification, a person must understand that if we lived in the presence of God all the time, and felt the love of Christ for us all the time, we would never sin. I mean, sin would loose all enticement, flesh or no flesh. How could a person possibly want to sin after feeling the glorious love, peace, light, and spirit of God? That is precisely why God sent us to Earth to prove us. Living with God we were continually in Gods presence and obliged to obey God. But down here, away from God, we can really learn what we are made of. Away from God's presence, the temptations of Satan, and the unbridled appetites of the flesh become enticing. And so we all sin and give into the enticement from time to time. And we are here to learn to cleave unto and draw near unto God. And as we come closer and close to God and we grow from grace to grace, and we witness and experience an increasing amount of the love, light, and Spirit of God, sin begins to lose its enticement, we are turned completely away from sin until we lose all desire for sin and desire to do good continually.

But as I said, our initial spiritual rebirth notwithstanding, the work of sanctification doesn't all happen at once. Sanctification is a process. Christ likens this process to purifying silver were the impurities in the silver rise to the top as it is heated. In our case, this heat could be a result of the light of the Holy Ghost for the furnace of affliction and adversity.

Now, how does this relate to remembering? The issue here is that after we accept Christ and become Justified, and are spiritually born again, we still continue to sin. Now, after feeling the love and Spirit of Christ, how could it be possible that we could turn away from that to follow the lusts and appetites of the flesh. The problem is that there is one big problem with regard to being mortal, and that is the problem of forgetting. The reason we continue to sin is because we forget. So, the key to sanctification and drawing closer to Christ so that we loose any desire to sin at all is to learn how to remember.

So, how do we remember Christ? It turns out that God has given us many many things to help us remember. God has given us many works to help us remember Christ and each of these works can be associated with great outpourings of the Holy Ghost. For example, God has given us scriptures which teach of Christ. God has given us daily prayer to help us remember Him. God has given us symbolic ordinances and covenants to help us remember. God has also given us the baptism, the Communion of the Lords Supper, priesthood authority and the restored temple.

Now, many people say that it doesn't matter what church a person goes to that we all worship the same God and that God is in each person. While some of that is true, God isn't in some of us enough because many people continue to have problems with sin. So, God by his infinite grace has given us many sanctifying gifts to be administered by His church to help us remember. And it is by remembering that we become sanctified and will eventually by the grace and power of Christ's atonement be purified and made holy such that we will be empowered to dwell again in the presence of our Father in Heaven.

1 comment:

Morgan Deane said...

Thanks for posting on CARM. I appreciate how you try to steer the conversation towards discussion of gospel principles.