Archive for July, 2013

POSITIONAL SANCTIFICATION

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

We are positionally sanctified in Christ is a teaching I heard recently from a Baptist minister. Quoting some relevant texts he explained that God, when He looks down from heaven, doesn't see us but rather He sees His dearly beloved Son and this enables us to be positionally sanctified while we in fact are not sanctified at all! I always find this type of explanation appalling because it makes God out to be a fool, and this He clearly is not. When God looks at me He doesn't see Jesus, but He sees me wherever I am at. If my heart is fixed upon Him He knows that I am gazing at Him and He knows the purity and resolve of my heart toward Him. He is no fool!

We are called to sanctification, without which no man shall see God, to be set apart entirely for God. Whoever has this hope purifies himself as He is pure. That we might be perfect, vessels of honour for His use. That we might live and move and dwell at the impulse of His love.

Jesus, on the night of His betrayal, praying to the Father concerning His disciples said “For their sake I sanctify Myself.” There was nothing positional in His sanctification how can it be otherwise in us, for we are supposedly baptized into His death. Baptism is an appeal to God for a cleansed conscience toward Him. It is a declaration in the depth of our being that we are dead to Christ in our sin, and we are made alive to Him in our total commitment to Him. We are transformed by Him because He causes His love to light on us and raise us up from our death into His life.

Jesus work of sanctification is complete, the perfect path to life is opened through Him, and in Him I live and dwell and have my being, and apart from Him I can do nothing. The work of sanctification is that of His Spirit's work in me; renewing me, restoring me, revealing Jesus in me.

When such a mighty love is opened to me, when such a mighty power is working within me, when such eternal love is beckoning me, why would I ever want to talk about positional sanctification? The answer is that I find the notion unthinkable, unbearable, untenable, but it would seem many in the church do not. Why?

The simple answer is that they don't know the Lord, for there is no love of Jesus in such a response. What they have been seeking is an assurance of salvation rather than a love of God. Strange for salvation is to love God! Jesus says the Father is seeking worshippers 'who worship Him in Spirit and truth' and elsewhere He says 'This is eternal life that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.' How can you know someone if you are not like them? We can only truly know Him by being changed into His likeness.

Sanctification is a journey, for it is to this purpose that God lays hold of us, that we might behold Him as He is. The psalmist says “As for me I shall behold Thy face in righteousness, I will be satisfied with Thy likeness when I awake.” Likewise he wrote, “When Thou didst say 'Seek My face' my heart said to Thee 'Thy face, O Lord, I shall seek.'”

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” and “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” But those who say they are positionally sanctified they are satisfied already. Of what importance is God to them?

PREACHING THE GOSPEL (Making Christians)

Saturday, July 13th, 2013

Jesus, speaking to the Pharisees, said “You travel over land and sea to make a proselyte of one man and then you make him twice the son of Gehenna that you are yourself.” I'm sure the church does not think that these words could possibly apply to them as they give altar calls and hand out pamphlets with the 'sinners prayer' calling on the weak willed and the damaged to give their lives to 'Christ'. But alas it does.

Go into the same churches that are abuzz with missionary zeal and speak to them about holiness and purity of heart toward God and they will declare themselves to be far too busy for such discussions and suggest that you go and start a church for yourselves some where else, preferably very far away.

Truth is that we, as ambassadors for Christ, can only present Him to others to the degree that we, ourselves, have come to know Him. The only way to truly know Him is to be like Him, drawing all of our life from Him, being drawn into unity with Him and the Father, so that we too, along with Paul can say that, “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” This statement of Paul's is not a doctrinal utterance, but rather the statement of a man who knows the immensity of the transformation that has occurred within his very person. He knows that the Holy Spirit has done a mighty work within him, which has enabled him to live the life and do the work of an apostle. Paul knows that he has become a new man, that he no longer looks at Jesus from the outside but has come to know Him from the inside. Paul, like Jesus, knows that his food is to do the will of the Father. Paul can say, “I could wish that I was anathema,” for the sake of his brothers the Jews, for he has so absorbed Jesus, that he understands Jesus love for His people. He knows in his heart the love which filled Jesus and enabled Him to walk to the cross.

This then is the challenge for the church, that we too might so deeply know Jesus, draw all of our strength from Him, that we too present to the world the living evidence that Jesus has both risen from death, but also rules in us and that in this love which fills us, the world might be confronted with a reality that it cannot silence or deny. That others might be confounded just as we ourselves have been confounded, and prove that the hope of God is no pie in the sky dream for the hereafter but is a real and present hope.

When the churches seek to convert people they can only seek to make them into the image of themselves. You can only present people with where you yourself walk. The church does not present itself as that which is alive from the dead, but rather as one convinced of a hope. The church deludes itself into believing it has salvation from death while still walking in the deeds that cause death, namely sin. Salvation must consist of the power to resist and conquer sin, otherwise it is not Christ reaching out through you, but rather the 'father of lies', sweetly saying peace where there is no peace.

When a person is deceived into believing that he has peace with God when he hasn't truthfully arrived at peace, then it is a very difficult task for him to be otherwise persuaded. Look at Jesus and His inability to convince the Pharisees. If Jesus, in the full purity of His love, could not help the Pharisees, how can the church, in its sins, hope to be anything more than a stumbling block to those seeking life? Unless we too know the fullness of Christ in us, we present nothing but idle speculation and self glorying pomp, to those to whom we 'preach'. 

Why Was Jesus Baptized?

Friday, July 5th, 2013

When John came preaching baptism for the forgiveness of sins to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord how could it include Jesus who had no sin? And why did Jesus say to John to baptize Him so that all righteousness might be fulfilled? 

There are many mysteries rolled up in this and to arrive at a deeper understanding requires some prayerful enquiry.

To start with what would the Jews of the day make of baptism?  Surely the Jews had a thoroughly working process in place to cope with sin and that was the sacrificial system provided by the law.  So for John the Baptist to proclaim a baptism of repentance was a deep statement about the entire spiritual life of the nation.  The spiritual elite were certainly not coming in droves.  When John saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to be baptized he said to them 'You brood of vipers who warned you of the wrath to come?'

To anyone with discernment something new and different was afoot.  The call to baptism was in some sense a negation of the Law.  It was declaring the insufficiency of the religious life of the nation.  It was a new beginning.  Jesus touched upon this sense when He said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the prophets; I did not come to abolish but fulfil.”  And also “…unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Why then was Jesus baptized?  And why in the Jordan River? 

The people of Israel were baptized into Moses when they entered the Red Sea on dry land in their victorious flight from Egypt.  Moses did not lead his people into the Promised Land as if in prefigurement of Paul’s words that the Law was a tutor that led us to Christ.  So Moses glimpsed the Promised Land but did not arrive there. So Joshua, by name a prefigurement of Christ, led the people into the land which God had promised.  This land was not the spiritual land of promise, but, like the temple, a shadow of the heavenly hope to come.  Whereas they entered the worldly Promised Land on dry land through the Jordan, baptized as it were into Joshua, they were called now to be baptized into Jesus through the waters of the Jordan re-entering the Promised Land.  It was as if the original entry did not account for much, this time was deeper and permanent.  When they entered under Joshua it was on dry land, but now in Jesus they had to enter through the waters and the waters signified death. 

In the days of Noah the world perished in the waters because of its sin.  Noah however was saved being drawn through the waters in his obedience to God.  If there was no Ark there was no redemption.  Similarly if Jesus did not meet us in the water there can be no salvation.  If He was not baptized there was no point in anyone being baptized.  Jesus in baptism was accepting the burden of the sins of God's people and after He was baptized He was cast into the wilderness, like the scapegoat, bearing the sins of the people.

So the call to Israel was a new beginning.  God was declaring that the time had been fulfilled; no longer were they to be ruled by Law, with a priestly elite, but were to be a nation of priests ruled by love, love of Him and through that each other.  Jesus was baptized for the nation and the nation was baptized into Him.  He was the final way out of the wilderness, the spiritual wanderings of man, the doorway into the heavenly life of God.

 

The question that must be asked of Christians today is, “Have they really been baptized into Christ's death and thus are now living with Him free from sin, or have they trivialised the command and rendered baptism a powerless ritual?”