Tag Archives: Sanctification

Prayer Changes Me

“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time – waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God – it changes me.” C.S. Lewis

One of my blogging friends, Theresa Moore, posted this quote on Facebook the other day and it really stuck with me. C.S. Lewis was such a brilliant man and has such a wonderful way of explaining faith and related matters.

I especially can relate to the last part of the quote: “It doesn’t change God – it changes me.” That is so true. God does not change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. But by spending time with Him in prayer I am changed to be more like Him each day. As I pray for the ability to see me as He sees me – both as I am and as He desires me to be – I grow in faith and understanding. I cannot help but be changed by this process.

I have found another thing about prayer. Jesus said that we should pray for our enemies and for those who persecute us. When we do this, our tendency is to pray that God would change them. But prayer seldom changes the difficult people in our lives (though on occasion it can). What prayer for our enemies does is change our attitude towards them. When I earnestly pray for the difficult people in my life, God helps me to see them from His perspective and to understand a little better why they might be the way they are and the root of their difficult behavior.

Prayer doesn’t change my enemies – it changes me. It helps me gain the wisdom and compassion necessary to love them as God has called me to do. And when I love them, perhaps I might help them to change, too.

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:19-21 (NIV).

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A Perfect Saint for Recipe (Good) Friday

Last year for Good Friday I posted a different sort of recipe. It was a recipe for Redemption and the Bread of Life. This year I had another idea for a special Good Friday recipe.

The Perfect Saint

Ingredients:

1 sinner justified by faith
The Holy Spirit
1 lifetime

Directions:

The first part of this recipe comes as a gift from God. “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.” Romans 3:28 (NIV). It happens in an instant when the sinner believes in Jesus as their Savior.

Once the sinner is justified, the Holy Spirit dwells within their heart and begins the lifelong process of sanctification. This process cannot be rushed but must happen in step with the Spirit of God. “He who began a good work in [this justified sinner] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 (NIV).

At the end of the lifetime of the justified sinner, he or she will stand before God as the perfect saint, clothed with the righteousness of Christ.

Although a single recipe for the Perfect Saint causes the angels to sing and our Lord to smile, each Saint is enhanced by the support and prayers of other Saints, a community of the children of God.

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:10-14 (NIV).

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Fighting for Joy – A Book Review

A couple of months ago my fellow blogger Pr. Bryan Lowe over at Broken Believers posted a book review of “When the Darkness Will Not Lift” by John Piper. I commented on his post that it looked like a great book and that I should add it to my already long reading list. His reply was, “Not getting it is NOT an option.” I heeded his directive and bought it that same day from Amazon.com. I am so glad I did because he was right. Not reading this book is not an option for anyone who has struggled with depression or knows someone who has or is.

Piper’s short work (only 79 pages) was written as a single chapter in a larger book, but then was also published separately. I may have to get the larger book, but for now I want to share with you a snippet of the wisdom I found in this book.

First and foremost, Piper recognizes that he cannot possibly plumb the depths of his subject – fighting for joy in Christ when depression will not go away – and that the causes and cures of depression are as varied as the people who suffer with it. His work is a starting point, and a good one at that.

What I liked best about this book is that in the Introduction Piper lays a groundwork in the Christian faith that I believe is easily forgotten in the mind of someone with depression (and is often not understood by Christians generally). He explains the difference between justification and sanctification, cautioning that the two not be confused or combined because keeping them separate is the foundation of “fighting for joy like a justified sinner.” (Piper, pg. 14).

He explains justification in this way:

The biblical truth of justification says that my rescue from sin and God’s wrath is first a legal rescue, and only then a moral one. First, I am legally absolved of guilt and credited with a righteousness that I don’t have. That is, I am declared righteous in the courtroom of heaven, where God sits as judge, and where I, without justification, would stand condemned by his law. That’s what the word “justify” means: not make just, but declare just. (Piper, pg.14-15).

Justification happens the moment we believe Jesus died for our sins and trust in Him as our Lord and Savior. Nothing we do thereafter changes our legal status in heaven.

Sanctification, on the other hand, takes much longer, sometimes a lifetime. It is the process by which the Holy Spirit, dwelling in the heart of the believer, slowly but surely changes who we are to be more like Christ. We often “lament,” Piper says, that the change occurs so slowly and we have failed in being perfect once again.

Piper further explains the difference between justification and sanctification:

Both justification and sanctification are gifts from God. Both are bought by the blood of Christ. They are inseparable, but different. Both are by faith alone. Justification is by faith alone because only faith receives the declaration that we, the ungodly, are counted righteous. Sanctification is by faith alone because only faith receives the power to bear the fruit of love. (Piper, pg. 18).

In the first chapter proper, Piper clearly stresses that depression can often have a medical cause. Sometimes other chronic illness or pain can lead to depression. The body, mind, and soul are all interconnected. He states that those who fight for joy but for whom the darkness does not lift can nonetheless truly be Christians. This is an important chapter to read for Christians who are unfamiliar with depression and might be tempted to tell a depressed person that if they truly had faith they could snap out of their depression. Often it is just not that easy.

If all you did was read the introduction to Piper’s book, you would be blessed. If you read on through chapter 1, you’d be doubly blessed. But he goes on to share so much more with so few words. In the interest of space, I won’t go into depth on any of the points in the rest of the book. Piper shares some tips to help someone struggling with spiritual or physical depression to fight for the joy of Christ, and they are all relevant at one time or another in the life of both Christians and non-Christians. He relates his points with some great stories, too.

After reading this book, I agree wholeheartedly with Pr. Lowe: “Not getting it is not an option.” It’s only $7.99 on Amazon.com and well worth the money and the time it takes to read it.

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Make Me Somewhat Better?

Last week I was driving my son to youth group and me to a Board of Elders meeting. We were listening to Third Day’s Revelation CD in the car. The song “This Is Who I Am” came on and my son said something that at first made me laugh, but then it got me thinking.

The chorus to this song says:

This is who I am
This is who I am
So take me and make me something so much more
This is who I am
This is who I am
So change me and make me someone better than before

Now, I’m not completely sure whether my son truly misheard the lyrics or was trying to be funny (because he is known for his off-the-wall sense of humor). Right after the chorus played he said, in his typical 16-year-old sarcastic voice, “Oh that’s a great thing to say. Okay, God, change me but don’t change me too much. Just make me ‘somewhat’ better than before.”

As I said, my first reaction was to laugh. But as I drove home later (my meeting having gone much later than his youth group gathering), I listened to the song again and was a little sad because it occurred to me that many Christians do say that very thing to God. They don’t mind if God changes them a little, but they don’t really want any big changes. They say to God, “Make me somewhat better.”

I think one reason for this is because many people think they are pretty good already. They go to church on Sunday, they don’t steal or cheat, and they’ve never murdered anyone. They think there really isn’t much need for significant improvement. They like the status quo. It’s comfortable and familiar.

But God doesn’t want to just make a few minor adjustments. He doesn’t want to make us just “somewhat” better. He wants to remake us in His image, to be and love like Christ. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV).

In my little town, there is a mix of small older houses and new mansions. We actually have a very large house that was just built across the street from us. There used to be a nice little 968 square foot cottage on that lot, and I’ve often wondered why they didn’t just add onto or remodel that house. After all, that’s what we did with our house; we remodeled and added on. From the street you can hardly tell the house is any bigger or different.

But that’s not what the developer who bought the cottage across the street did. He tore down the cottage and has replaced it with a 5 bedroom, 3 ½ bath house. God is a lot like that developer. He does not want to work in us the equivalent of a small remodel or even an addition. He wants to tear down the old house and build an entirely new one.

So how about you? You know who you are now; are you ready for God to make a complete change? Or are you asking Him to just make you somewhat better? Do you want what He does in you to be barely noticeable from the outside? Or do you want people to wonder whether you are even the same person they used to know?

Oh, and here’s a video of the song by Third Day. If you can’t help but hear the lyrics as “somewhat” instead of “someone,” I apologize. But just maybe it will help you remember what God wants to do with your life and mine.

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