Sometimes when I think of the process of Christian Growth to Christlikeness, I am discouraged by my progress. Recently, I have been part of our church’s discipleship initiative which placed a leader with three other believers in a group. These groups met each sunday morning before our worship. We were to discuss a topic related to the basics of the Christian Life and follow that with some basic pastoral diagnostic questions and prayer.
These questions related to how well we had been doing this week in our relationship with God. How was our personal worship and time with God? To be honest, there were weeks where I dreaded going. Why? Because I was the leader…. and I did my homework on Saturday. Personal discipline hasn’t been my strong point as a whole. I tend to be one of those people who make a calendar and forget about it. The immediate and urgent typically hits me and drives my calendar. So Sunday came, I sat with these other men and felt like a looser. Yep, the leader who can’t even string together a successful week of quiet time with God. Did I pray? Sure. Did I spend time with the word? Yes. I did those things but not every day.
What I wonder is why I tend to think of my spiritual life as performance? Why spending time with Jesus isn’t something I look forward to. Why is does it feel like doing my algebra homework in Jr High School?
What is the point?
I have come to the conclusion that when I focus on Sanctification as the end or more precisely, Spiritual Disciplines as a goal I tend to fail. My heart wants to have a way to measure its growth. I find that I condemn myself for not doing the particulars. But the real issue here is that I forget that the particulars are not the point to begin with!
Big fat harry deal that I missed a 20 minute quiet time on Wednesday morning. What I need to remember is not that I “didn’t do my homework” but that I didn’t get to enjoy spending time with Jesus! My heart wasn’t encouraged. My spirit didn’t hear from the Holy Spirit that I am a Son of God. I didn’t remember the gospel! I didn’t see the forgiveness that I mine in Christ! I didn’t remember that my Father in heaven loves me!
I remember a seminary class during my last year. We get the syllabus and begin to read over it looking at what we are expected to complete. Some of us are wondering how we can get all this new work done and also have time to look for a job after graduation. The pressure of getting good grades and also mastering the material is important. The professor says to the class, you already have an A.
What? The whole class looks up from their pages!
“You already have an A.”
He took the issue of grades and performance off the table from the start! He set the tone of the class from the beginning. We were there to learn. Not to get an A.
That class was a lot of fun. We laughed and we learned. We didn’t worry about the grade.
The gospel frees me to learn, laugh, cry, relax and spend time with Jesus.
The Difference between Justification and Sanctification
It is worth noting that the Westminister Shorter Catechism points out the difference between Justification and Sanctification in the first phrase.
Q. 33. What is justification?
Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.
Q. 35. What is sanctification?
- A. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.
Note that the difference is that Justification is an ACT and Sanctification is a WORK. Both are by the Free Grace of God.
When I remember that my relationship with God begins with an “Act of God’s Free Grace” and that act of God is based on the righteousness of Christ applied to my account freely and received by Faith alone, I then am free to walk with God as He works to make me like Christ.
Sanctification is a Work of God’s grace, where I find renewal, and am enabled!
This looks a whole lot different than doing my homework! It becomes an adventure in grace! Today I open my Bible and listen. I’m not trying to get my homework done so I can get the A. I already have one!