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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sanctification is a Zen-like OCD

"I don't know man why is it so hard to just be okay with God; maybe I need to give up my fight with him. As simple as it sounds, its the biggest challenge of my life. Will I ever be able to let go? I don't know. I'm a fool. I feel like I cannot live in the secular world in order to fully give in to God. I just want to scream right now." - my friend on g-chat

During a Bible study, a young man asked the group, how do we fully accept grace without getting lazy or taking that grace for granted? How do we let God love us without feeling like we need to earn His love by doing stuff in return? In other words, how do we do this thing called faith? What both my friend and the young man was struggling with was sanctification.

Sanctification is the process of making something holy. To sanctify means to set apart. Therefore, when we are sanctified by Christ, we are constantly being set apart and made holy. In the word sanctify, there is both a reference to an ongoing process and a state of completion. As we grow to bear the image of Christ more and more in life, we must not forget that we are already there and not yet there at the same time. Christ's work completed our work of salvation and if we accept his purity to cover our impurity, we have nothing to strive for, but to continue to love God for His love for us and to share that love with others. One thing we recognize when we find ourselves regenerated or justified in Christ - a.k.a. saved - is that we are infinitely dirtier than we could ever imagine ourselves to be and God's love is infinitely greater than we could ever imagine it to be. As we went around giving words to the young man, I thought of an analogy that might help us understand what sanctification actually is.

For those of us fortunate enough to have our own homes or rooms we know the feeling of what a clean room is. When everything is in the right place, there is no dust on the windows or dresser, our clothes are perfectly folded, the trashcan is empty, and our bed is made, we recognize that things are the way they should be. However, when our rooms get too messy, we can often times find ourselves overwhelmed with the daunting task ahead of us. We don't want to clean the room because it seems like there is no end to it and even when we break it up into sections, we dread the entire process. If you enjoy cleaning, just read trying to understand the intention by which I write and come over to clean my house from time to time as an act of love :) .

Once we are justified by Christ, what I think happens is that we see how the room should be. In other words, we recognize that if things are out of place, if there are cobwebs forming, if dust is getting layered, and if the trash is all over the room, we see that the room is not in the condition it should be in. We instantly recognize how great a clean room is and how much we enjoy a tidy room. From that place, we move towards maintaining it in every way possible because we gain pleasure from it. As ridiculous as it sounds, when our rooms are clean and organized, we become overwhelmed in awe that we don't want to change a thing or even put a crinkle in our sheets. I think that's why people let out a sigh of relief when they return home to find that their rooms are clean.

Sanctification is the process of keeping the room clean once we realize how clean it can be. We get a zen-like OCD (forgive the heresy) where we want to make sure we are pure and blameless before God, but are at peace because Christ is our purity and our blamelessness before God. We literally desire purity with all that we are, but don't fret about it with anxiety. We don't strive to clean the room, nor are we neurotic in anyway. Instead, we experience a type of holy dissatisfaction with anything wrong in the room, and a joy as we continue to remember that our room is clean because of Christ. We don't do it out of bitterness or grudge, but we do it out of joy because we know that there is more pleasure in keeping the room clean than in it being dirty - at least in an ideal world.

As we continued to share with the young man during Bible study, a fellow Wheatie who went to Wheaton College with me added to my analogy. He said, "But the greater reality is that God cleaned the room for us, and that anytime it gets too dirty will clean it again." That is the beauty of the Gospel. God gives us a standard He expects us to live by, and then He says, "Don't worry, just enjoy the room (Christ) I have cleaned for you and I will keep it clean. You don't have to do a thing except rest in the clean room!"

If we are Christians, we find ourselves constantly struggling with the dirtiness of life and the tension of God's holiness as a deep contrast. I think the thing we must remember daily is that Christ is our righteousness in that everything he did for us is added unto us. The point of grace is that we don't have to do anything except for receive it with open hands in a dependency that God in his great love and might knows exactly what we need to be satisfied in this life and the next. This reception changes what we see and how we see the world. It gives us a perspective that more clearly sees God's heart and by default connects our desires to His. If we struggle between desires, most likely, we haven't truly tasted God. As we all know in theory that sugar is sweet, but unless if we taste it, we don't really understand the actual sweetness of it. The same is true for Christianity, we may know that God is good and His love is perfect, but unless if we taste it, we won't desire for more of it because we've never tried it. We cannot forget however, that He offers it to us constantly and if we find ourselves struggling with desires to both embrace the world and deny it, it only proves God's prodding in our lives to show us his abounding love.

"Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are halfhearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." - C.S. Lewis

Dedicated to H.S.C.

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