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Spiritual Growth: Finding God's Will

Friday, January 28, 2022 @ 6:44 AM Spiritual Growth:  Finding God's Will ATTENTION: Major social media outlets are finding ways to block the conservative/evangelical viewpoint. Click here for daily electronic delivery of The Stand's Daily Digest - the day's top blogs from AFA.

Dr. Robert Youngblood The Stand MORE

(Editor's note: Originally, this series was called Spiritual Fitness. For other installments, please see HERE and HERE.)

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1 NKJV, emphasis added).

Spiritual growth in Christianity is not passive. Even when it may seem outwardly passive, the underlying foundation of the Christian life is active obedience based on trusting God by finding and following His will – this means so much more than any type of self-improvement, Bible study, or going to church.

Christ’s sacrifice for us was not passive. Instead, it was the perfect example of meekness working for the greater good. Too often, I had thought of meek as meaning weak, when in reality the biblical use references the ability to have “power under control.” Remembering the King of Kings was wrongly mocked, scourged, and crucified may allow us to better persevere the lesser crosses we face while renewing our minds and conforming to Him instead of the world.

A Christian’s path through the world moves from the time of salvation (redemption/justification) immediately into sanctification and then eventually glorification.  In regards to the first two, a collection of Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ sermons found in God the Holy Spirit has him saying these steps are never disjointed:

“For the purposes of thought, and, indeed, in accordance with the Scripture, we must distinguish justification from sanctification. But that is a very different thing from separating them. And we must never do that because, according to the teaching, they are part of the same process. They are part of God’s one great movement of salvation” (Chapter 19, “Sanctification – God’s Work and Ours”, emphasis added).

Unfortunately, for too long, my mind had been steeped in America’s culture instead of God’s Word. I haven't guarded my heart as well as I should have. I had too easily and unconsciously placed each in separate boxes just as easily as some box their Sunday best from the rest of their week. Both are shameful acts to repent of.

I felt I was missing something still. To find out, I asked Bert Harper, host of Exploring the Word, this:

 “True or False. Spiritual growth is the same as sanctification. If it is false, please explain why.”

He leaned back in his chair, and – as he told me later – began to draw from his knowledge of the Bible, his life including the time he pastored, and other observations. He took some time before he answered.

Finally, Harper told me spiritual growth is not the same as sanctification. He said we are first sanctified in our position by and through Christ in our relationship to God when we’re saved. From that point forward until our final glorification, we are sanctified by growing closer to God.

“Spiritual growth,” Harper said, “results in sanctification.”

He must have seen my confused look.

“It is a work of the Holy Spirit in life along with your openness to follow,” Harper added. “Nobody sees my sanctification, but they see the fruit of the Spirit that grows through me. Sanctification is the love of God becoming real through me.”

In essence, if we deny spiritual growth in our lives, we're denying the sanctification the Lord desires and requires of us (John 17:17; 1 John 3:3; Romans 13:12; 1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 Peter 1:2). To continue to do this is to deny the Holy Spirit by disobedience.

Harper noted we are warned not to grieve (Ephesians 4:30) or quench the Holy Spirit. I love how The Amplified Bible shares 1 Thessalonians 5:19, “Do not quench [subdue, or be unresponsive to the working and guidance of] the [Holy] Spirit.”

“The reason you don’t quench or grieve the Holy Spirit,” Harper said, “is because you would be choking the root who would allow you to yield fruit.”

Recently, I had heard on AFR how the fruit of the Spirit is not a buffet where we choose what we like. If we are in Christ and see one of these is less or missing, then we need to make an effort to open up to the Holy Spirit more so He can work on and through us to grow more like Him.

Jerry Bridges, author of The Transforming Power of the Gospel, describes this work of growth and transformation occurring by our “dependent responsibility” to relate to God through the Holy Spirit. Is relate a strong enough word? Perhaps it is, if we remember we love Him because He first loved us.

Bridges develops the idea of dependent responsibility by sharing Psalm 127:1. He points out the two activities mentioned there are building and watching. These, he says, describe our role:

“We should always be proactively ‘building’ Christian character in our lives. At the same time, we should be ‘watching’ over our lives to guard against temptation. …[the Psalmist] is teaching us that we are both fully responsible and fully dependent.”

We know from John 17:17 that Jesus prayed we be sanctified in truth and then He said the Word is truth. As I’ve mentioned before, since Scripture tells us God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts, then we need to be in His Word regularly so we can better know both.

So, if you have ever prayed about knowing the will of God, there is a huge part of it – be sanctified. Let me challenge you with this quote from Lloyd-Jones that he developed over two pages in Chapter 19:

“That then is our first deduction: God’s will, God’s purpose in the whole of salvation, in everything He has done in His Son and by the Spirit, is our sanctification.”

Spiritual growth is part of God’s will because it is part of the process of sanctification where we follow Him who first loved us. Instead of “Let go and let God” as the only setting for our spiritual growth, may I suggest we balance it with the rest of Scripture by thinking “Let go [of your own desires], and follow God [wherever He may lead even if it is difficult or more than expected]” because we can never lose anything of eternal worth by trading our agendas for His agenda. 

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