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Showing posts with label Sanctifying Grace. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sanctifying Grace. Show all posts

Monday, December 12, 2022

God Wants You to be Holy

I haven't always been a Methodist.  I grew up going to Baptist churches.  So when I started attending a Methodist church, I was curious what were the differences.  Someone told me a joke I have always enjoyed.  They said, "You know what’s the difference between Methodists and Baptists?  Methodist say hello when they see each other in the liquor store!" 

And it is true that Methodists are much more open about the fact that we may enjoy an acholic beverage (while Baptist who do might not want to admit it).  There may be other difference we notice--we like to light candles and recite the Apostles Creed and other responsive liturgical readings.  However, the real difference are much deeper than these surface level issues   It's theological.

Methodists have a distinct emphasis on God’s grace. Grace is the undeserved gift of God’s divine help.  All Christians believe God's grace is what saves us--rather than our good works--because we can't earn salvation; it's a free gift from God for those who believe.  However, Methodists really emphasize God's grace and we even spell out the three main ways we experience God's grace.  There is the prevenient grace of God that helps us before we even think about God.  Then there is the justifying grace of God that saves us when we realize who Christ is and we repent of sin and turn to follow Jesus.  And today I want to talk about the third grace--sanctifying grace--that works to actually heal us and make us holy.

In the UMH, we have 22 songs under the theme of Prevenient Grace and 20 songs about Justifying Grace.  However, we have 154 songs about Sanctifying Grace!  What does the number of hymns for each category tell you about how the Methodist church's emphasis on sanctification?  It is very important to us! 

Sanctification is the life-long process of God healing us of sin and perfecting us in love. True Healing comes as we surrender ourselves to God and let His grace transform us.  Healing comes as we obey and do those things God asks of us.  

A man who is seriously ill, physically, will never get better unless he goes to a good doctor and follows the doctor’s treatment plan.  However, it doesn’t matter if the doctor is the best doctor in the world; the sick man will not get better on his own if he doesn't follow the doctor's treatment plan.

Well Jesus is known as the "Great Physician".  He is the greatest spiritual healer of all.  And we need healing.  We can't heal our own sin-sickness.  Jesus can heal us, but unless we follow The Great Physicians treatment plan for us, we will not get better.

Romans 6:12-18
12 Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. 13 Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. 14 Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.

15 Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! 16 Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. 17 Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. 18 Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.

Key Verses
Let me point out a few key phrases from this reading that shows what God expects from Christians after Jesus saves them.  Romans 6:14 says, "Sin is no longer your master… You are free by God’s grace…"
Romans 6:15 says, "Since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does this mean we can go on sinning? Of course not!"  So we see, God expects Christians to put away sin because we've been set free by His grace.

Here are some other scriptures that show that God wants us to be holy.  1 Thessalonians 4:3, "It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality"  And Jude 1:24 says, "All glory to God, who is able to keep you from stumbling, and who will bring you into his glorious presence innocent of sin and with great joy."

There are even more challenging verses from God’s Word about what God expects with regard to holiness, such as Hebrews 12:14, which says, "…seek to live a clean and holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord."  And 1 John 3:9, "Those who have been born into God’s family do not sin, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they have been born of God."

God’s Prevenient Grace draw us to Him. His Justifying Grace forgives us and sets aside our sin.  However, God doesn’t want us to remain in sin, so His Sanctifying Grace heals our sins and leads us to become holy. 

Now all Christian denominations know this and preach about sanctification.  However, sanctification has always been the hallmark of the Methodist movement.  John Wesley and the early Methodist were specifically motivated to urge Christians everywhere to "Spread Scriptural holiness across the land" (in other words, to truly be reformed and to help reform people everywhere to live holy lives).

Perfection In Love
Methodists believe God’s sanctifying grace through the Holy Spirit can perfect us in love in this lifetime.  We will still be tempted.  (Even Jesus was tempted.)  We will still make mistakes. We will never have perfect knowledge in this life, but we can have perfect love.  John Wesley taught perfect love is when everything you do is motivated by sincere love.  Thus, in this state, even the mistakes you make flow from love.  That is what we are aiming for! 

Strive for perfect love!  Let God change you!  Don’t be lazy and don’t you dare sell out!  God wants more for you than mediocrity!  He wants you to be holy!  And you can be holy, because God’s Sanctifying Grace can heal you and make you Holy.  Eventually, Lord willing, everything you do may be motivated by love!  But you can’t sit back and make the excuse, “Oh, no body’s perfect…”  That won’t get you anywhere.  But God’s healing grace can take you all the way to perfection in love—if you will let Him! 

Personal and Social Holiness
True Methodist doctrine shouts holy sanctification loud and clear!  It motivates us to be changed and to help change the world. 

Some Christians live their lives as if they’re just waiting to die.  They say, “I’ve been saved. 
I know I’m going to heaven.  What more is there?” 
There’s a lot more!  We are not just waiting to die.  

We pray in the Lord’s prayer:  “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  These are not empty words.  They should be the yearning of every Christian’s heart.   I believe God answers prayers, don’t you?  So why would He not answer the Lord’s Prayer? 

It is not God’s will that you continue to be dominated by sin.  God wants you to actually be free!  Does that seem impossible?  Well Jesus reminds us in Mark 10:27:  “With men it is impossible, but not with God.  Nothing is impossible with God!”  And Jude 1:24 says, “All glory to God, who is able to keep you from stumbling…”

We cannot free ourselves or stop ourselves from sinning own our own.  But God—through the Holy Spirit—helps us & sanctifies us to grow more & more like Jesus.  We ought to pray for and hope for and cooperate with the Holy Spirit, trusting God will heal us.  If you aren’t aiming for perfection, what are you aiming for?  And if you aren’t aiming for perfection, what do you think you will get?  

This is not a burden, because we don’t do it by our own strength. It’s not a matter of will power.  It’s not us buckling down extra hard, gritting our teeth, and making ourselves better people.  Sanctification is a matter of cooperation.  God makes the changes in your life, but, you’ve got to cooperate. 

Jesus is a wonderful physician, but you’ve got to follow His treatment plan.  Are you?  Are you actively praying?  Are you reading your Bible?  Are you celebrating the sacraments regularly?  Are you serving God and others?  Are you supporting God’s mission financially with a cheerful heart?  Are you devoting yourself to the Lord above all else?

The Christian faith is not just a personal thing.  It is also social.  We are called to spread scriptural holiness across the land.  Christians have changed the world for the better over the last 2,000 years.  It’s not God’s will that our world continues to be broken or that Christians throw up their hands in resignation and say, “There’s nothing we can do about it.” 

True Christians have always worked to better the world.  Even Christians who were being brutally tortured and executes for their faith, have followed Christ’s example of sacrificial love and sought the salvation of their persecutors.  Surely Christians today can change our world in 21st century America for the better, but it won’t happen unless you take seriously God’s call to be Holy People.  It cannot happen just because you, by you sheer will power, resolve to make the world holy.  It can only happen when you cooperate with what the Holy Spirit wants to do in you today. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Born Again - 3 Ways of Grace

I had the privilege of preaching to a Spanish speaking congregation who meats in the chapel of my church.  Here is the message I preached through a translator on April 12, 2015.  They were very gracious host and I look forward to having their pastor preach at Pleasant Grove UMC on May 31st.

Copyright April 8, 2015 by Chris Mullis
John 3:1-8, 1 Peter 1:3-4

          I believe we are all part of the   If you believe in Jesus Christ, if He is your Lord and Savior, you are my brother or sister.  I know this is true because Christians are born again.  So even though you and I have different parents on earth, our heavenly Father is the same.  I want to read the place in the Bible where Jesus first said the phrase “born again.”  Then I want to talk about being born again, and 3 main ways we experience God’s grace. 
same family, regardless of what church we go to or what language we speak.
t is such a privilege to speak to you today.  I love to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ any chance I get.  Thank you for welcoming me today. 

John 3:1-8 (NIV)
1Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

The key verse for us today is John 3:6 (NLT) – Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.

Prevenient Grace
            Humans can reproduce human life by having children.  I have three children.  My oldest is in the 11th grade.  Lord willing, he will graduate high school next year.  He will be an adult soon.  But I still remember when he was a baby.  I remember when he took his first steps.  I was not there, I was in my class at seminary, but my wife got it on video and I watched it that night when I got home. 
            Soon my son Gavin was learning to speak and then to read and to add and subtract.  He was also learning about Jesus.  We took Gavin to church from the time he was a baby.  It took some time for him to mature enough to be ready, but when he was 10-years-old, he was “born again” when he decided to follow Jesus as his Lord and Savior.  Now he is almost an adult and he continues to grow in strength and wisdom and faith.
            Praise God!  All of my children have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  My youngest daughter just turned 8-years-old.  She was born again last summer at Vacation Bible School.  She is still young, and doesn’t understand everything about being a Christian, but she understands enough and she is growing—both her body and her spirit.
            I love each of my children.  I loved them even before they knew it.  Even when they were babies and couldn’t understand anything, I took care of them.  I loved them.  This is like one of the ways God’s grace works for us.  He loves us even before we know it.  Long before we ever think about God, He is already thinking about us. 
You see it was nearly 2,000 years ago that Jesus came to earth and lived, died on the cross, and rose from the grave.  You weren’t even born yet, but God was already thinking about you.  He was thinking how you would struggle with sin.  He knew how you would feel ashamed for things you had done or things you left undone.  He knew how your sin would separate you from Him and He didn’t want that.  So He sent His son, Jesus, to die for you to pay the price for your sin and to rise to new life so you could also be “born again.”  He did all this before you ever had a single thought.  That’s how amazing God’s grace is.  It comes before anything we do and is already starting to make a way for us to be born again.  In my church, we call this Prevenient Grace.  It is the grace of God that draws us to God and prepares us for salvation.

Justifying Grace
            But at some point, we become aware of what God has done for us—just like my daughter last summer who finally was old enough to understand what Jesus did for her and wanted to be a Christian.  At some point, you start to understand that Jesus is alive and he can change your life and that he deserves your complete devotion.  And if you ask to be his disciple, he will let you and you will be “born again.” 
            This new birth is not a result of human effort.  It is a birth that comes from the Holy Spirit.  1 Peter 1:2 says “God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.”   And verse 3 says, It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead.”
When you are born again, you become a new person.  2 Corinthians 5:17 – “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
When you are born again, all your past sins and mistakes are washed away in a flood of God’s grace.  1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”
When you are born again, you are adopted as God’s very own son or daughter.  1 John 5:1 – Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God.”
And along with these honors comes the inheritance of eternal life.    1 Peter 1:4 says, “We have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.” And John 3:16, “...everyone who believes in [Jesus] will not perish but have eternal life.”
The moment you say “yes” to Jesus, you are “born again” by God’s grace.  In my church, we call this Justifying Grace.  It is the undeserved grace of God that justifies us—or makes us righteous in God’s sight.

Sanctifying Grace
            What happens after a person is born again?  Well, what happens to a child after it is born?  A child begins to grow.  Soon they are crawling, then walking, then talking, then running, then playing soccer.  Then they become teenagers and make their parents crazy.  Then maybe they go to college or start working, get married, have children of their own.
            The same is true of Christians that are born again.  We start to grow in our Christian faith.  We do not stay the same as we were when we were “born again.”  “Instead,” as Ephesians 4:15 says, “we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.”
            If you are the same today as you were when you first became a Christian, something is wrong.  If you saw a baby who still looked like an infant, but was 5 years old, wouldn’t you think something is wrong?  You would think, “What has happened to this poor child that has kept it from growing up?”  Sometimes, I look at some Christians and I think, “What is wrong with this poor Christian?  They were born again (maybe 5 years ago), but they have grown very little in their faith.  They haven’t learned anything about what the Bible says.  They haven’t put their faith into practice.  They haven’t changed the way they live—they still live like the people outside the Church who aren’t Christians.  They haven’t been a witness for Jesus—telling people what he has done for them.  Even worse, they don’t love people the way Christ teaches us to love.”
            It’s OK to be a baby Christian right after you are born again; everything is still new.  But we shouldn’t stay like babies for long.  But how do you change?  It is the grace of God that helps us to grow—to become more and more like Christ.  In my church, we call this Sanctifying Grace.  It is the grace of God that perfects us—that helps us grow more and more like Christ.
You see, you can’t make yourself grow.  You can’t work harder and make yourself perfect.  Only God’s Holy Spirit can change you.  Can you imagine a little child who wants so badly to grow up?  He says, “I don’t want to be a little kid anymore!  I want to be like my big brother (or big sister)!”  And so this little child closes his eyes and grits his teeth and stiffens all his muscles and tries to make himself grow up.  It won’t work—no matter how hard he tries.  Who makes him grow?  Isn’t it God who makes the child grow?  The child can do some things to help the process.  He can eat good food to make his muscles stronger.  He can go to school and learn.  He can make sure to get enough sleep at night.  These are all things that help, but only God can make him grow.
It is God who makes your spirit grow too.  It is His Spirit that helps you to change.  Maybe you were born as a very selfish person, but with God’s help you can grow out of it and become more like Christ—caring more about others than yourself.  Maybe you are too shy to tell people about Jesus, but God can help you grow into a great evangelist.  Maybe you don’t know much about the Bible, but God can help you learn and grow into a Bible teacher or a pastor.  It is God that makes you grow.  He can make you grow into whoever He wants you to be.  But you have to let Him.  You have to cooperate with Him.  You have to follow the steps He gives you.  You have to listen to your pastor who was put here to guide you.  You have to study your Bible, which is God’s Holy Word.  You have to worship God and listen to His voice.  These are all things that help.  If you cooperate with God, He will make you grow.

            I do not know you very well.  I don’t know where you are in your Christian journey.  Maybe you are not a Christian yet.  But God’s grace has brought you here.  God was already thinking about you before you ever thought about Him.  He has been working many things out to bring you here today.  Maybe He has been protecting you from danger or illness or trouble, so that you could come here today and hear the Gospel.  Maybe—because God loves you so much—He has allowed some bad things to happen to you in order to turn your heart to God. 
If you are not a Christian, why don’t you become one today?  You can be born again!  You can become a new person!  All your sins can be forgiven!  You can put your past behind you and start all over—with a new beginning, and a life full of possibilities!  Don’t put it off.  No one knows how much time they have left in this world.  You must be born again in order to see God in heaven and avoid His punishment.
Maybe you are already a Christian.  You were “born again.”  God’s grace has washed away your sins through the blood of Christ.  Just as he died and rose again, you have died to your sins and risen to a new life—a Christian life.  You are born again.  I am so happy for you!  You are my brother or sister in Christ!  But have you been growing?  Are you doing things that help you grow?  Are you cooperating with God’s Spirit?  Are you letting Him make you more like Christ?  Are you letting Him change you?  Or are you’re the same today as you have always been—still just a baby in Christ?
It’s time for you to make a choice.  You need to say, “I don’t want to be a baby Christian anymore.  I want to grow up.  I want to be more like Christ.  Lord, help me to be more like Christ.”  Maybe it’s time for you to start studying your Bible more.  Maybe it’s time to be more regular in your church attendance.  Maybe it’s time for you to ask your pastor how you can serve your church.  Maybe it’s time to be a witness for Jesus at your school or where you work or with your family and friends.  Doing things like this will help God change you into the person He wants you to be—to be more like Christ.  Ask God to help you grow.  Let Him help you change.
Where ever you are in your journey with Christ, I hope you will take at least one step forward today.  If God has spoken to you today, I urge you to talk to your pastor, Isabel.  She loves you very much and wants you to know Jesus and to grow.  She is the person God has chosen to be your shepherd.  She can help you know what to do next.