June 30, 2014

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What is Sanctification FOR? In the flurry of conversation about sanctification-- thanks to the public disagreement between Pastor Tullian and The Gospel Coalition-- I keep wondering if one question is being ignored: What is sanctification for? We've explored what it might mean-- a looking back or a striving toward-- and if it results in transformation or not...but why does it matter? What is it for? In our day, we seem to force everything through the grid of acceptance and rejection. So, when it comes to sanctifcation, we ask, "Will I be accepted if I am not fully sanctified?" Or, "How sanctified do I have to be in order to not be rejected-- by God or by the Church?" While these might be sincere questions, I suspect they are misguided. Consider the following: (a) If we were created to be God's image-bearers-- to reflect God's wise and loving rule into God's world, and (b) if the Fall has marred that image (at best), and (c) if Jesus is the perfect image of God, and (d) if salvation-- in its totality-- is about setting us right, putting us and the world back together again in such a way that we and all creation are being made 'new', (e) then sanctification is about restoring the image of God in us for the glory of God and for the life of the world. When God incorporates us into Christ, His righteousness becomes ours, the Spirit in-dwells us, and we are called children of God. And then the Spirit begins to work in us both to desire and to do (Phil. 2:12-13), conforming us to the image of the Son of God...not so we can become children of God, but because we are dearly loved children of God (Eph. 5:1). The Spirit helps us become the children of God...
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On Being 'Spiritual But Not Religious' I hear often that people are spiritual but not religious, or that they love Jesus but don't like the Church. I get it. But the antidote to a thing that has been misused or abused-- like religion and church-- is not no use, but good and proper use. So, the question worth asking might be, "What is the good and proper use of religion?" Or simply, "What good is organized religion, specifically Christianity, and, to be even more precise, the Church?" Some Christian writers are convinced that the best thing to do is to stop talking about Christianity and to emphasize following Jesus and not any sort of organized religion. But this won't do because there is no unscrambling this egg: Christianity as an organized Way of following Jesus exists, and has existed for a couple of millenia. (Arguably, those Christian writers are 'following Jesus' today because Christianity has existed-- as the preserver and proclaimer of the faith!) Others say, just leave out 'the Church', because, after all, Jesus didn't come to start an institution. Other than a re-reading of a key speech Jesus gave to Peter, this view ignores (either out of ignorance or otherwise) that the four Gospels came to us out of early Christian communities. They were some of the last New Testament books to be written, and the stories in it were preserved by...wait for it...churches. So if the Gospels contain some sort of anti-Church or anti-organized religion message, it would be news to the writers! I have recently been reading James Martin's (S. J.) marvelous book, 'The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything' and came across his warm and winsome discussion of being 'spiritual but not religious'. I've highlighted the parts that really stood out to me: The thinking goes like this: being “religious” means abiding...

Glenn Packiam

Lead Pastor, new life DOWNTOWN, New Life Church, Colorado Springs, CO. Author and songwriter.

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