Archives For Sanctification

The Embassy of Joy

Erik Raymond —  May 30, 2012

On occasion we read international news stories that detail how people seeking safety will make a mad dash to an embassy Whether because of political, legal or some other issue, the people have gotten into some trouble with the local officials and they need asylum. They need protection.

While stories like this pique our interests they seem foreign. They might as well be tales from another world. Most of you reading this blog live in a nation that affords you tremendous safety and privilege. We don’t feel this type of pressure.

At the same time, we do have trouble and we do seek refuge.
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One of the favorite lines around our house when one of the kids does something wrong is, “What is this going to look like when you are 18?” As parents, our point is that these sins in their toddler stages do grow up and mature. Pigging out and lusting after the cheese dip does mature into a lack of self-control in all of life as you grow. Connect the dots.

Let’s apply this principle to your Bible reading and devotions. If you take your current practices of spiritual discipline, what does this look like when you are 80?

Too many times I hear people talking about wanting to be more disciplined, more faithful, more intentional without being more active. The fact of the matter is, you will be tomorrow who you are today if you don’t make any changes.

So who do you want to be when you’re 40? 50? 60? 70? or 80?

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We have flipped our calendars to the new year with excitement and optimism. And as Christians this means that Bible reading plans are making their rounds and are being gobbled up by well-intentioned, eager hands. I celebrate this as a good thing.

But hold on for a second, I have a quick question.

What did you read yesterday? No, not what chapter, but what did you read? What from God’s Word got ahold of you to produce a response? Did anything evoke conviction or delight? Did something particular from your reading explode in your heart with thanksgiving?

Hopefully the answer is yes. But too often the answer is, “Wait. Hold on. …I can’t remember.”

This reminds me of childhood trips to the dentist. Do you recall after the dentist put that horrific flouride treatment in your mouth? He then would spray in a bunch of water that you would lean over and (try to) spit in the small circular sink next to your head.

Sadly too many of us have a “swish and spit” devotional life. We grab a little Bible reading, swish it around in the morning, then spit it out on the way out the door. The treasures from the Word don’t get swallowed and digested but rather spit out quickly.

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You Need More than Ornaments!

Erik Raymond —  December 23, 2011

Most of us have a tree in our  living room this time of year. Whether “real” or “fake” the tree is decorated with ornaments and other festive items to celebrate the Christmas season.

The trees also help illustrate an essential but often overlooked truth of the Christian life: ornaments of grace are not hung on the tree of your Christianity but they are grown from it.

Let me give you an example. Meet John. John is member in a local church. However, he and his wife have been arguing lately. John has been blowing up at her and then ignoring her. The cycles are getting more and more frequent and intense. Finally John’s wife calls a pastor and counseling begins.

John is outwardly contrite. He knows it is wrong to yell at his wife and then ignore her. He can quote the Bible verses about loving his wife (Eph. 5.25) and anger (Gal. 5.20). He knows he needs to make some changes.

So what does he do?

He goes home apologies to his wife, gets up early the next morning to read his Bible, then he prays, setting off an organized period of intentional spiritual discipline.

Sounds good right?

Fast-forward 30 days. John is visiting again with the pastor. He is upset with his wife and what appears to be a bunch of work that didn’t pay off. He has grinded it out on the spiritual treadmill for the last month only to find himself back in the same chair with the same problems.

What’s the problem?

In short, John was decorating the tree rather than growing fruit. Anyone can decorate a tree but only the Spirit of God can produce fruit (Gal. 5.16-25). Anyone can make a plan and sweat through some spiritual checklists but it takes true grace wrought in the heart of the believer to produce gospel fruit.

Switching metaphors a bit, imagine if you had an apple tree in your yard. You bought it, planted it, watered it and are excited to get some apples. In fact your excitement leads you to rush past the waiting period of the apple actually growing. You run down to the market and pick up a dozen apples and then attach them to the tree with fishing wire. Then you run in the house and show your wife and kids, “Look, I grew apples!!”

Of course you didn’t grow apples, you hung apples. There is a difference.

Too many Christians hang apples, they decorate the tree. We forget the fruit of the Spirit is actually the fruit of the Spirit! Yes we work, strive, and even sweat but it is nevertheless God who is working in the life of the believer (Phil. 2.12-13). To put it another way you do not produce evidences of grace by the flesh, instead they come via God’s gracious work in the Holy Spirit.

Just like the apple tree true fruit takes time. There is a bud, then some growth,eventually you see what looks like fruit. God is working in the lives of his people, he is growing them. This growth is organic not mechanical. It comes from wtihin not from without. He will use those same means that we often try to use in the flesh (Bible, prayer, meditation, etc) however he will use them in a broken and contrite heart that values Jesus.

So as you sit and look at the lights and ornaments on the tree this Christmas take some time to sit back and ask yourself about yourself. Are you just decorating a tree or is God growing fruit?

Prophet, Priest, and King. Those three words have biblical tonnage tethered to them. Each communicate the person and work of Christ with succinct theological clarity.

The Heidelberg Catechism picks up this thread in question 31 (emphasis mine):

Q: Why is he called “Christ”, that is, the anointed?

A: Because he is ordained of God the Father, and anointed with the Holy Ghost, to be our chief Prophet and Teacher, who has fully revealed to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption; and to be our only High Priest, who by the one sacrifice of his body, has redeemed us, and makes continual intercession with the Father for us; and also to be our eternal King, who governs us by his word and Spirit, and who defends and preserves us in that salvation, he has purchased for us.

I have found that these three terms are also quite helpful in thinking through the believer’s response to the gospel in living a life of worshipful obedience.

Prophet: Christians are to make the good confession of faith, speak the truth of the gospel to one another and outsiders, and continue to be governed by the truth that, “it is written…” (Rom. 10.9-11; Col. 3.15-17; Matt. 28.18-20; 2 Tim. 3.16-17).

Priest: As believers we are to continually offer up the sacrifice of praise in response to the sufficient and unblemished work of Christ. Just like the burnt offering that was to be ever burning and consuming of the sacrifice, so too Christians, in our thinking and living, are to be ever burning and completely consumed with the glory of Christ in the gospel (Rom. 12.1-2ff; Heb. 13.15-16).

King: As we follow Christ we are to find ourselves striving against those things that are against Christ our King. We are to put sin to death, resist the devil, and look forward to reigning eternally with him (Rom. 6.12-13; Gal. 5.17ff; 2 Tim. 2.12; 1 Pet. 5.8-9).

These descriptions are not perfect but I have found them helpful in personally thinking through and communicating our response to the work of Christ as we endeavor to obey and reflect him in this world.

The situation is bleak.  The battlefield is filled with dead Jews.  The enemies are rejoicing.  Hope seems to be gone.  The Philistines had just mowed down 4,000 men of Israel in an ancient border skirmish.

In terms of redemptive history this is not a real good time for the people of God.  The priest is impotent, he cares more for his sons and family then God and his glory.  The sons are called ‘worthless’ by God (1 Sam. 2.12).  By in large the people seem like fairly self-dependent comfortable proud religious folks who are still breathing the fumes from God’s faithfulness in previous generations.  They do not seem to know or truly love God.

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You Are Never a Veteran

Erik Raymond —  November 3, 2011

In the sports world rookies and newer players have to work doubly hard if they expect to excel. If a player is a veteran, that is, he has been around for awhile, he has earned the right to be there–so to speak. He has a track record. He may even enjoy certain privileges that younger players do not enjoy.

This may be the reality of the sports world and even work well; however, when it comes to the spiritual life, it cannot and does not apply.

I will highlight two particular areas: devotional life and dealing with sin.

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