Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Be What You Have Become

This summer, I had gotten out of the habit of listening to faith based talk radio, and had switched the dial to the more political stations.  It didn't take long for me to notice my outlook on life taking a downward spiral,  so I decided to go back to listening to more uplifting things.  Wouldn't you know it, the first day I did so I ended up hearing a repeat sermon! Thankfully, it was one that really made an impression on me, and the second time was just as encouraging as the first!

Stuart Briscoe was speaking on Jesus's prayer before his arrest, often called the high priestly prayer.  At one point in the sermon, Mr. Briscoe zeroed in on Jesus's use of the word "sanctify." He pointed out  that the word simply means "set apart for a purpose," but that there are two senses of the word for a Christian.  When we are baptized into Christ, we are immediately sanctified, but sanctification is also a process.  In other words, he says, we have to learn to BE what we have BECOME. 

If that sounds confusing to you, you're not alone.  At first, I was bumfuzzled.  Then Mr. Briscoe gave an excellent example, and I was able to think of more examples myself.  When he got married, he said, he became a husband as soon as the minister pronounced them man and wife.  But learning to be a husband, with all of its responsibilities and joys, took some time. 
I have an example too.  Over seven years ago, I became a mother.  When they laid my daughter on my chest (or arguably when I conceived her), I was immediately a parent.  But when I took my little bundle of joy home, I realized that I had a lot to learn to be a mother.  I didn't know how to calm her evening fussies, what it meant when she looked like a crazed rat, or that I should never start changing a diaper without all my supplies handy.  (Perhaps that last one is common sense, but many new moms seem to lack that commodity).

So how did I learn how to be the mom I had become?  Some of it was trial and error, but I also learned a lot by talking to experienced mothers and reading books.  My mom told me right away that the crazed rat look meant that my otherwise beautiful baby was hungry. The Happiest Baby on the Block gave me lots of good hints on how to make my daughter feel more comfortable during those first few months.  Of course, I actually had to use this new information, and once I did, I was feeding and rocking my baby (almost) like a pro.

I think learning to be the sanctified Christians we have become is similar.  We are sanctified when we rise from baptism, but we become more set apart as we read God's word, learn from other Christians, and (most importantly) start doing the things we have learned.  Jesus's prayer seems to echo this theme. 
Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. (John 17:17)
Jesus asks God to sanctify his followers in truth, and follows up by stating that God's word is truth.  God's word works to sanctify us when we follow it. 

We aren't set apart all by ourselves, though. Jesus also requests that his followers be "perfected in unity" (John 17:23). Part of unity, according to Ephesians 4, is for us to learn from one another as we work together.
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:14-16).
Of course, the Bible and our fellow Christians are useless if we don't put into practice the things we learn.  If I had read about swaddling my infant but never tried it, it would not have been much help.  In the same way, Jesus and James both said that knowing what to do without doing it is not only an exercise in futility, but also dangerous. (Matthew 7:24-27; James 1:21-25).  We become more holy by doing.

I am a Christian.  I am sanctified, set apart by God to fulfill his purpose.  I am also being sanctified, becoming more like Jesus, more able to do what God has called me to do each day as I study his word, learn from other Christians and DO those things I have been called to do.


Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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