----->>>>>> I wrote this post back in October, and it is SO as rough of a draft as you're gunna get, but seriously, I really feel like God has some cool things to say through me in this next year or so on the matter of discipleship and sanctification, and here are some rough ideas on it.
"Rough" being the key word.
Please, I welcome your thoughts. Take a second, and have a read...
As I have been going through this thing called "life" lately, God has been showing me a lot. And He has specifically laid one thing on my heart during this time of great transitions - The Sanctification Process. Now of course, just like anything dealing with religion, there a million different views on the sanctification process.
- For the Catholics, we have "moral perfection"
- Eastern Orthodoxy says we can take on "divine properties"... yikes.
- Lutherans, and the majority of Protestant denominations (probably you), would agree that along with the Holy Spirit's help, the individual would be responsible for maintaining a certain level of "holiness".
- For Methodists, it is a process that is life long, and was a grace-led spiritual growth (much more to say on this one...).
As I study the scriptures, consider my own life, and continue to watch the effects of the Christian church today, I am beginning to realize that maybe the majority of Christians, are being led in the wrong direction when it comes to the sanctification and discipleship process, especially in America.
The main thesis that I have been chewing on when it comes to this idea, is the fact that when it comes to the Bible, everything seems so rushed. And our American lives are going a million miles a minute, and so it's only natural that when we read the Bible, it would seem like everything that God is asking from the Christian, would need to be done, and accomplished, immediately.
My salvation story is different from others, in that I didn't grow up in the Christian faith, and I only came to know the Lord when I was 19 years old. God put this huge passion in bones (and, I believe, a specific calling) to get out there, and do anything I could within ministry, and so that's all I have ever known. I watched others quit volunteering, or only make it to church once a month, and I was completely convinced they were "backsliding". I was taught that there was certain things a person needed to do to be a "good Christian", and anything less was looked down upon. I remember feeling guilty over listening to secular music, watching TV, not praying out loud during community prayer times, missing church, wearing a two piece bathing suit, and drinking alcohol.
When I escaped this "situation", I revolted from everything. I equated not attending church, with attending Radiohead concerts, and not reading my Bible, with watching MTV. The more I thought about the situation, the more I realized that this sounded a lot like legalism, and so that gave me a lot of freedom. And when I finally cleared away all the dust, and took out my Radiohead albums from storage, I realized that not going to church, and not reading my Bible, were only going to hurt me in the long run, and watching MTV, wasn't going to send me to hell.
Galatians 5 tells the Christian what kind of "fruits" they are supposed to live by. These include: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
This list seems a little heavy to me. It makes me nervous, like if I have to walk into a church again, I am going to have to display all of these things. And like I was saying before, they all seemed so rushed. I mean, for goodness sake, they are all in ONE sentence!
So why is it that I am feeling such freedom, whenever I accept the fact that I am not perfect? Maybe we need to focus on the first half of Galatians more than the second half.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Mark my words!
I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised,
Christ will be of no value to you at all.
Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised
that he is obligated to obey the whole law.
You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ;
you have fallen away from grace.
But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit
the righteousness for which we hope.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
In this passage, it is clear that Paul is speaking to the Jews about the "Law", and how the legalism of the Law can make a person fall away from grace. We are free, and we are not justified by laws, and we eagerly await, through the Spirit, our own righteousness (for which we hope), and also, we await Jesus' return.
Yes, it's scary to preach "freedom", because some may take it too literally. Yes, it may seem that the cost of having "freedom" through Christ, can cause a heavier burden. But I believe that these yes' that I speak of, should not stop us from preaching this part of the gospel, especially within discipleship.
My friend Dave Bazan wrote a song about how it's "hard to be, a decent human being". Dave has swirled into an addiction to alcohol, and a world of doubt, and it seems that all he is feeling is a lot of guilt. He ends the song by saying,
"I swung my tassel to the left side of my cap
Knowing after graduation there would be no going back
and no congratulations from my faithful family
some of whom are already fasting to intercede for me"
When I hear Dave sing these songs, all I can think of is that he is in the process of sanctification. If sanctification is grace-led spiritual growth (which I tend to lean more Methodist on this issue), then why would it seem so far fetched that grace isn't leading Bazan right now? I think we can all attest that the Spirit of God was working within this man before, so why wouldn't it be the same now?
I hardly read my Bible unless I have too. I don't go to church every weekend. I am not volunteering in a ministry, and I watch TV. But I want to tell you something amazing - at this time in my life... a time that would seem to some, as dry... I have never seen more "fruit" in and out of my life, I have never been closer to my family, I have never been more patient, kind, and self-controlled in my life, and my heart is still in pursuit of the Kingdom.
So why is it that when I was doing everything "right", I was not being something that was "right"?
Sanctification takes time. It takes experiences. It takes relationships and accountability. It takes love. It takes failures. It takes being happy. It takes addictions. It takes doubt. It takes fear. It takes pridefulness. It takes being lonely.
It does not happen overnight, but still, this is the expectations the Church can put on the Christian. I believe this ends up being one of the huge reasons, Christians, love escaping from the Church.
There is this fine line when it comes to talking about sanctification. Most believe you have to work for it. But then the line becomes fuzzy because we are saved by grace alone. I think we need to embrace the fact that while in some cases, we do work for it... mostly, God is working it within us.
This is my rough ideas of the Christian life:
>>Saved, and super stoked about God (The Conversion Experience)
>>Holier than Thou time of life... Learning the Christian ways, and buying Jesus symbols for your vehicles
>>Giving up everything, to serve in the church (this could go on for years)
>>(Hopefully) Get involved in a Home Group with other Christians
>>Getting really busy... tired from life... and "burned" in different ways by the church
>>Stepping down from ministry, and try your hardest to attend church every week
>>Feel really guilty about not serving as much as you used too, and missing church a few times... driving you into a place where you just don't really want to think about it anymore...
Like I said, "rough" ideas here, and everyone's story is going to be different (including mine), but I think for the most part, this is the pattern of a lot of Christians today. And when you really examine this list closely, I think that it's really clear that what is missing is discipleship, and if there is discipleship, then sometimes it can be placed in the wrong area.
I am just really tired of talking to so many of my former youth students, and other friends, who feel really discouraged about the Church, because they feel guilt for not being a "better Christian". I am trying to figure out what that really means, and if it actually even exists.
GAH, there is just so much more to say, and that is why I keep prolonging posting my thoughts here, but I would really love some feedback.
Thanks so much for reading.