Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Fine Line

There is always a fine line we tread in life. Work. Family. God. We all know who must come first, but do any of us really put God first? As Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians, we are to “pray without ceasing”. Even a liberal interpretation of this verse shows us that we should at the very least pray often and consistantly, thanking the Lord for all things. Fruits. We are to produce fruits as evidence of faith. Growth in holiness. Peter shows us that virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, and kindness are all necessary evidences of faith “For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.” Make your call and election sure! Do these things and you will never stumble he goes on to say.

A fine line we must walk my friend. A fine line indeed. The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is a wonderful and precious gift from God. Look at yourself in the mirror. Do you see these things? We all see these things to varying degrees, but we also see that there is still the taint of sin in our lives. The mirror of the Law shows all - if you are willing to look into it. Examine yourself! Are you growing in holiness? Is sanctification a fancy word that has no meaning in your Christian walk? The Holy Spirit is sent by the Father to dwell within us should we be saved. He will produce fruit. Are you producing?


Twice Burned said...

Ron, welcome to the blogosphere.

I read this post several days ago and have had a headache ever since. Well, actually I attribute that to pollen, high winds during harvest, and a cold front moving in. But, try as I may, I cannot reconcile the last two sentences of this post:

He (the Holy Spirit) will produce fruit.

Are you producing?

If we are not producing, does that mean the Spirit is falling down on His job? Or that we are rejecting the fruit He grows within us?

Maybe it's just my headache. Could you please elaborate and/or include some additional Scriptural references?


Not Alone +++ PAS said...

Dear Ron,

Twice Burned asked an excellent question, to which I would like to offer some comments. Her question was directed to you, so I hope that it is not offensive to step forward with an offering.

I am not certain whether Twice Burned was asking a question for herself or to promote pondering on the matter. I will treat it as a question. By the way, I am sorry to hear of your headache, TB.

The question is regarding the perception of contradictory views of the life of faith. On one hand the Holy Spirit is credited as the worker of the life of faith and on the other hand the saint is credited as the worker of the life of faith. TB's question appears to be: Which one is it?

Answer: Both if rightly understood, neither if not rightly understood.

Ron's admonition: "Examine yourself! Are you growing in holiness?" shows the cause of the confusion. The confusion is amplified by the question: "Is sanctification a fancy word that has no meaning in your Christian walk?"

These are actually good questions except for one thing, your approach to them is backwards. Consider the first question set forth in this post: "We all know who must come first, but do any of us really put God first?"

Consider this: where do the Scriptures ever speak of anybody putting God in any position, first, second, last? God IS! He is the First and the Last. He is the Creator. We are the created. He IS. We began.

Do you see the problem? It is not that we are to put God first but to know Him as God, the only God, and to trust in Him alone as God without trying to be god in any degree whatsoever. When we know the Lord as God, then we also realize the true and only cause of holiness in our lives. Then rather than trying to measure God by measuring our holiness, we look to the means by which God makes us holy, God breathed faith poured out in connection with His Word in the preaching of the Gospel and in the Sacraments. Then, rather than asking whether we are somehow doing a good job, we praise God for His grace. It truly turns us around so that we see the true meaning of repentance as something that is worked by faith, which is a gift of God, not of works. (Eph. 2).

If you look to your own life you will always come away asking the question, "Are you producing?"

When you look to your baptism, you see that you have been regenerated as a saint of God who hungers and thirsts not for a sanctification or holiness or righteousness of his own, but for the righteousness of God that is in Christ. When Christ is your holiness and you look for you holiness nowhere else and from no one else, you don't care about how well you are progressing. Rather you will always fall to your knees confessing your unworthiness according to your every thought, word, and deed, and rather than blaspheming by looking for God's holiness in what you do, you will hear God's declaration of righteousness for Christ's sake and rise up walking in the works that He has prepared before hand for you to walk in them. (Eph. 2)

Then when you read 2 Peter or any other portion of the Holy Scriptures you will not seek ways to become better or more holy. Instead, you will find yourself doing as St. Paul declared in 1 Corinthinans 1-2, to know nothing other than Jesus Christ and Him crucified. When this is all that you know, you know nothing other than the righteousness of God. Then you find that you are walking in the Spirit, for our Lord plainly declared that the Spirit would lead you to nowhere other than Jesus and His righteousness, which was made yours fully in the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit and is fed to you in the Holy Supper every time the Holy Spirit brings you to the Lord's table.

This is what St. Peter means for us to hear when he says, “For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.”

This is also what he means by saying that we "be dilligent to make our call and election sure..." For what can we do to make our call and election sure? Will any of our works do this for us? Certainly not. Only faith in Christ crucified does this. So our "growth in holiness" is very simply being converted and becoming little children who trust in the Spirit's mighty working in Baptism and through the Supper. When these are the only sources of holiness in which we rely, we never go away disappointed or wondering, for these are God's work and cannot fail us. They do make us holy through and through.

Does God make us a little bit holy and then set us on our path in life to complete the job of sanctification? Is it even possible to make someone a little bit or part way holy? No. In Baptism the job is done for us. All that we do is to continue in the work that God has done, repenting and returning to Him whenever we forget who God really is and imagine that we are somehow holy by what we do, rather than counting our works as holy because God has made them holy.

Do you see the difference? I hope that I have not been too bold.

It is just that the Gospel is the power of God for salvaton to all who believe by the calling of the Holy Spirit. From beginning to end, Christ is our sanctification. When we believe this we have what we seek and need seek no further.

God's peace.

Ron the ranch hand said...

Great questions Twice Burned! Love the response Not Alone. I fear that I was obviously not clear enough in my post. Some thoughts and comments follow.

Am I impliying that the Holy Spirit is falling down on the job or that are we rejecting the fruit? Neither! I am trying to invoke in the reader an examination of themselves as the Apostle Peter implores us to do by examining ourselves to make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10). If one is not producing 'fruit' are you saved? I believe that is my question. Are all that have been baptized saved? If you are in the faith then as Not Alone commented we can point to our baptism.

In answer to your many questions Not Alone - I am answering in short form, but do not intend to be short - exellent questions all. God Is. We do not contribute in any way to our sanctification. In relation to putting God first I am pointing to the First Commandment, not having anything before Him, which would in effect be a god (small 'g'). I believe as Peter tells us to, that we must ask ourselves if we are producing fruit (your question of are we good) for if we are not, we are not saved. For the Lord WILL produce fruit. We cannot be good, because we are anything but good. Only God is good. I was not meaning to imply that we can seek after being good. We can however note that positive changes are happening in our life, that the fruit that Peter describes is happening (sanctification) and all the glory goes to Christ. We are NEVER holy because of what we do. Wow, did you get that from my post? I will have to be a tad more careful!

I hope this did not come across as defensive. Not Alone - I agree with everything you said - in many ways much more eloquant than I ever could!

Twice Burned, take two asprins, read the Bible daily and call on the Lord in the morning!

May the Lord be with you all. And thanks for the comments!