Trusting God through Afflictions

One of the most incredible stories in the Bible can be found in the book of Job.  As we read through this book, we can see how Job went through a horrible loss, and yet God led him through and upheld him in all things.  In one day, Job lost his entire fortune, his children, and his servants but still kept faith in God.  Over the next few days he was stricken with horrible diseases and was brought almost to death.  Even after all seemed lost and he was given seemingly every excuse to curse God, Job was granted the strength to keep his faith in God and was even given great rewards and blessings.

As we travel through this earthly pilgrimage, we often find ourselves in situations that we would rather not be in.  We sometimes find ourselves echoing the words of the psalmist in Psalm 77: “Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favorable no more?”  Whether it is because of a loss of a job, a death of a close family member, or persecution from the world, we are called to maintain our faith in Christ to lead us through all things.

As we look back on our lives and throughout history, we can see countless examples of God using trials to the advantage of his children.  We are called to constantly trust in Him and to know that everything will work out to our profit.  One passage that has always given me strength through trials is II Corinthians 12:9-10.  In this passage, the apostle Paul is given a “thorn in the flesh”, and asks repeatedly for it to be taken away.  The answer he gets is something that we all need to hear when facing adversity. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

Samples from Seminary – “Sanctification Is a Team Sport”

In these next two blog posts under this rubric, I plan to provide samples from two different conferences that the seminary students attended recently.  These conferences provided us with a chance to interact with and learn from other Reformed believers. While there are many things from these conferences that I would love to pass along, I will limit myself to one tidbit from each conference.

Before the start of this semester, the entire student body at seminary was given the opportunity to attend a conference at Westminster Seminary in Escondido, CA. The conference focused on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit under the theme: “The Lord and Giver of Life.” At the conference, Dr. Michael Horton, a professor at the seminary, gave a speech on the Holy Spirit and sanctification. Within his speech, he referred to sanctification as a “team sport,” while drawing from Ephesians 4:11-12. In this passage, the Apostle Paul is speaking about the various gifts worked by the Holy Spirit in the members of the church. Some were given gifts to be apostles or prophets; others had the gifts to be evangelists, pastors, or teachers. The apostle then explains the purpose of these gifts in 4:12, which reads, “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” On the basis of this verse, Dr. Horton taught that sanctification is a team sport. More specifically, sanctification is for others and with others.

Sanctification is for others in that we grow in our life of holiness in order to love and serve others. In other words, the Spirit gives us gifts and works sanctification in us for the good of others. Or, as the Belgic Confession puts it in Article 28: all men must join themselves to the church, “as mutual members of the same body, serving to the edification of the brethren, according to the talents God has given them.”

Sanctification is also with others because it happens in the context of the church. As we interact with other Christians they have a sanctifying influence on us. As Dr. Horton pointed out, this makes church attendance an absolute must.

That sanctification is a team sport (for others and with others) influences our perspective on things. Too often, I view sanctification as occurring within a vacuum occupied by only the Holy Spirit and myself. Thus, at times I wrongly make personal victory over sin and temptation the goal of sanctification. In addition, I am tempted to view sanctification as an isolated battle. However, the purpose of sanctification is for others and the context of sanctification is with others. For me, this is an encouragement to be an active member in the church.

If you would like to listen to the speech for yourself, visit the following link. The part that I summarized starts at roughly the 44-minute mark.

 

Matt Kortus

The call to sanctification

When the Lord brings us home to our eternal rest, we will see him as he is. We will behold the holiness of our great God with our own eyes. We will be able to do this because his image will have been fully restored in us. This is our hope. Because we live in this hope, we are called to sanctification. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:1-3).

Sanctification is the act of God in us, delivering us from the dominion of sin so that we may live unto him in good works. We are sanctified in principle. We have God’s seal of ownership on us, the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:13 brings this home; “In whom [Christ] ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.” That we are sanctified in principle does not mean that we are sinless, but rather that our attitude toward sin changes and we strive more and more toward sanctification in this life. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1, 2).

Sanctification implies separation. We are the temples of God. We are called not to defile the temple of God, but to be separate (2 Corinthians 6:16, 17). This is the antithesis. You are not living a life of sanctification when you are not living the life of the antithesis. Paul in Romans 1 describes our life of separation as reasonable service. This is reasonable because of what he has done for us, namely delivering us from our sin by providing a Mediator.

With sanctification comes the calling to testify of our hope. We will look at this next time.

RK