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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Christian Sanctification

So there I was, sitting in one of those trendy downtown restaurants. You know, the kind with the exposed old brick walls, battered wood floors, black metal staircase, and a saxophone player sitting on a stool in a corner. It was a dinner with a team of consultants. We went there because word was that wine was half off the regular price per glass. Besides, they had Cajun bar food and we reasoned that it would sound good.

I hadn't been really hungry and wasn't planning to go. I had decided not to go. But one of them asked. He said, "I was really hoping you would come. The conversation is always more interesting when you're there." So I said, "Okay, I'll come." While we were walking to the restaurant, he confided in me, "I really thought I was going to have to work harder than that to persuade you to come with us. I'm glad I didn't." It's one of those times when you feel that the circumstances are a bit odd, but you roll with it.

The conversation was interesting, to say the least. It ranged a whole gamut of questions. Who is God? Why don't Catholics practice what they preach? Did God may gay people gay? Is heaven real? I tell you, the Bible instructs us to know what we believe and why. Rarely am I put in a situation where that is so necessary. But for last night's dinner, it was! Perhaps the most enduring question though had to do with the difference between religion and God.

It seems that organized religion has done a stellar job of wounding the faithful and driving them out of the churches. They want to seek God, but they feel as if the church is standing in their way. It's like the church is a roadblock between them and God!

Of course, then there are those hypocrites who inhabit churches. They pass themselves off as Christians. But to those who are watching, they don't look very attractive. In fact, they are a complete turn-off. Those who might be attracted to seek God in our churches are repulsed by the people they see in those churches.

And there it was, the "S" word. I'm talking about sanctification. I found myself having to explain sanctification to my dinner partners. I think sanctification is really what's misunderstood about so-called Christian hypocrites. The thing is that Christians are still sinners. When we become Christ's property, we don't suddenly become virtuous and righteous. That process takes the rest of our lives!

Knowledge of righteousness isn't the answer. Knowing what is right doesn't help me to it. Knowing what is wrong doesn't help me avoid it. Self-determination doesn't help me do it. Struggling under one's own strength usually results in failure ... because one's own strength if flawed and imperfect. Finally, becoming a Christian doesn't eliminate the sinful desires that wage war in me.

Being born again (in the Holy Spirit) only takes a moment. But becoming like Christ takes a lifetime. It is that simple. There is great tension in the Christian experience. We agree with God's commands --- but we cannot follow them. As a result, we are painfully aware of our own sin (way more than non-Christians). As a result, we know that we are hypocrites --- and we don't like it any better than those who are watching us do.

Now, how do we help those seekers get past this truth? I don't know the answer. But after last night's dinner, it is pretty clear to me that God expects me to wrestle with the question.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this entry - the second to last paragraph really hit home, especially the last sentence. I know Paul wrote it in his letters, but it's good to be reminded, especially in bold words.