March 24, 2014

Boot camp and sore fingers

This week’s unit of study is justification and sanctification. Justification is God declaring sinners “just” because Christ has taken their sin and replaced it with His righteousness. It is a legal declaration, but not in our experience. It is like enlistment in the army; you become a soldier instantly, but it takes time and training to learn how to live like a soldier.

This is where sanctification comes in. It is the process whereby God makes a justified person into what He has declared they are, His soldiers. This process begins at salvation and continues through life. Sometimes it is delightful, and sometimes it feels like God is ripping out my innards.

Because Jesus lives in me, and because God’s goal is that He is glorified in my life, God must get rid of all that blocks Him from being seen. This can be external activities and attitudes, but for me right now, it is deeply held values and desires. Corrie ten Boom once said, “I’ve learned not to hold too tightly to anything, for it hurts when God pries my fingers loose.”

I’ve not learned that yet. I know the principle, but absolute surrender, even to a loving and faithful God, is not as easy as tossing old or useless possessions. Not only that, He also asks for the new and valued, the near and dear. It hurts as He pries my fingers loose.

The reality is that there is only One Treasure, only One Hero, only One Valuable in my life, this Treasure is in this “jar of clay” and demonstrates that all “surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” And when this jar of clay (a frail, cracked pot) suffers, the more the treasure is relied on and released to serve others. Paul put it this way . . .

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:7–18)

This morning, God gives me this Word to not lose heart for this is “light affliction” and better things are coming. If that isn’t helpful — and thinking of heaven does not always make life here feel better — then He urges me with another Word to wait on Him . . .  

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28–31)

Two more passages also give me a boost. One is the goal of King David who was called a “man after God’s own heart.” As devoted as he was to God, he knew that he was not there yet and prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10) That is God’s goal for me as well, but getting there is a battle.

Israel struggled with inner and outer backsliding and needed encouragement and hope. For them, God said, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” (Jeremiah 29:11–14)

God has not driven me from home and sent me into exile, nor am I being persecuted and struck down. Instead, these current battles are within me, and invisible, except maybe for the pried fingers.

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