Article XVIII-Salvation-Sanctification

Continuing on the series of the Free Methodist Church’s Articles of Religion (see here and here for an explanation of the series and format):

¶119 Salvation-Sanctification

Sanctification is that saving work of God beginning with new life in Christ whereby the Holy Spirit renews His people after the likeness of God, changing them through crisis and process, from one degree of glory to another, and conforming them to the image of Christ.

As believers surrender to God in faith and die to self through full consecration, the Holy Spirit fills them with love and purifies them from sin. This sanctifying relationship with God remedies the divided mind, redirects the heart to God, and empowers believers to please and serve God in their daily lives.

Thus, God sets His people free to love Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love their neighbor as themselves.

¶131 Scriptural References

The doctrines of the Free Methodist Church are based upon the Holy Scriptures and are derived from their total biblical context. The references below are appropriate passages related to the given articles. They are listed in their biblical sequence and are not intended to be exhaustive. Leviticus 20:7-8; John 14:16-17; 17:19; Acts 1:8; 2:4; 15:8-9; Romans 5:3-5; 8:12-17; 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 6:11; 12:4-11; Galatians 5:22-25; Ephesians 4:22-24; 1 Thessalonians 4:7; 5:23-24; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 10:14.

John Wesley called the doctrine of sanctification the “grand deposit” God gave the people called Methodist. It is this doctrine that sets us apart from other denominations. It is not because it is new or different. On the contrary. It is because we have been called by God to make it one of the hallmarks of our preaching and teaching.

As one can see by the many Scripture passages above that reference sanctification, this is not a new concept. Another way to describe the same idea is Christian maturity, although sanctification is more traditional.

Put simply, we believe that God can truly conform us to the image and likeness of Christ and enable us to live a holy life in his power here and now in this life. Full salvation from the power of sin is not beyond the power of God, nor is it beyond the purview of humans in this life. As we respond to God’s grace, we are gradually transformed from grace to grace and glory to glory. We see nowhere in the Bible where it states that God can only complete the good work in us at the moment of our death.

As well, we have witnesses of sanctified lives among us. There are numerous stories of people who were truly the salt of the earth. We know people who did truly perfectly love God and neighbors. And we pray that those ranks will increase.

Article XI-Humankind-Law of Life and Love

Continuing on the series of the Free Methodist Church’s Articles of Religion (see here and here for an explanation of the series and format):

greatest_command_button¶112 Humankind-Law of Life and Love

God’s law for all human life, personal and social, is expressed in two divine commands: Love the Lord God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. These commands reveal what is best for persons in their relationship with God, others and society. They set forth the principles of human duty in both individual and social action. They recognize God as the only Sovereign. All people as created by Him and in His image have the same inherent rights regardless of gender, race or color. All should therefore give God absolute obedience in their individual, social and political acts. They should strive to secure to everyone respect for their persons, their rights and their greatest happiness in the possession and exercise of the right within the moral law.

¶131 Scriptural References

The doctrines of the Free Methodist Church are based upon the Holy Scriptures and are derived from their total biblical context. The references below are appropriate passages related to the given articles. They are listed in their biblical sequence and are not intended to be exhaustive. Matthew 22:35-39; John 15:17; Galatians 3:28; 1 John 4:19-21.

This Article describes how we as Free Methodists ought to look at everyone in creation and how we ought to treat them. It also reminds us how we are to fulfill our civic duty in the countries in which we reside. In America, we have an election tomorrow and this Article reminds us that Christ wants us to make our decisions out of love–love for God and love for others.

It is important to remember that we are called to love. It is too easy to forget that God calls us to a life of love, not a life of being right. It is easier to be right on certain issues than to offer love to others, especially ones we think are completely wrong on certain issues. Imagine how the original apostles felt. Matthew was a tax collector, a collaborator with Rome, and Simon was a Zealot, a terrorist committed to destroying Rome and all who stood with them. These two were brought together in Christ. Simon, Andrew, James, and John were blue collar fishermen, and Philip and Nathaniel were students of Torah, the white collar trade of the day, and these six were brought together in Christ.

If we are not living in a love for God and a love for others, we are not living in Christ. It does not matter what we profess to believe. If we do not have love, we have nothing.

Hebrews 6:1-3 and Deepening Faith and Growing in Christ

Have you ever met someone who was a Christian, or at least claimed to be one, and never really changed? They never grew in their faith. They never seemed to have more love of God or neighbor in their hearts. And they always seem to talk about the same subjects when it comes to religion?

This is not what Christianity is supposed to be about. Christianity is about being recreated in the image and likeness of Jesus Christ one step at a time. It is about changing from the inside out, through the power of God, into the person we know we ought to be. It is about allowing God to live in us so that his love can be shed abroad in our lives and the world around us.

Interestingly, the Bible knows it can be difficult for people to get past the initial stages of the faith and grow in Christ. Hebrews encourages Christians:

So let’s press on to maturity, by moving on from the basics about Christ’s word. Let’s not lay a foundation of turning away from dead works, of faith in God, of teaching about ritual ways to wash with water, laying on of hands, the resurrection from the dead, and eternal judgment—all over again. We’re going to press on, if God allows it.

Faith. Not trying to earn our salvation. Arguments over baptism. Arguments over ordination. What the resurrection is. The end of the world. This is like a laundry list of topics most churches and denominations argue over and discuss. Frequently. As a matter of fact, if the majority of Christians stopped preaching, teaching, and discussing these topics, I do believe most pastors would be silent and most congregations could hear a pin drop in them.

Perhaps the reason we do not have so many more people living out the Christian faith in such obvious ways as to be considered salt of the earth people or living saints is because they are not moving past the basics about Christ’s word. Perhaps if we spent more time trying to grow deeper in our faith and less time talking or arguing about these topics, we would see more changed lives. Perhaps if we tried to seriously become disciples of Jesus and less time trying to prove why other groups of Christians are wrong, we would see the Kingdom of God come with power.

Just a thought.

Hebrews 1:1-4 and Christmas Makes Christianity Different

20150802Every religion in the world has a list of rules that were given, in some form or fashion, from on high. Adherents to that religion then need to do the best they can to live up to those rules and laws. At the end (either one’s personal end or the end of all things), these people will be judged by how well they kept those laws. Whether it is Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, or any other religion, this is how it works. The vision and understanding of what a reward is may be different, but the process is the same.

Christianity is different, though. It is different precisely because of who Jesus Christ is. He is the One True God who came in the flesh. Look at the introduction to the Book of Hebrews:

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by the Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

The reality of Christianity is that it is not a message that was given by human prophets nor is it a message that was mediated by semi-divine beings like angels or demigods. Instead, the One True God came to this world and gave us the truth of the Gospel. Because of God’s presence on earth in Jesus Christ, we now have access to the very presence of God in heaven.

God, through his ministry on earth, has opened the heavens to us. Instead of us trying to work our way to the presence of God through following a legal code, God comes to us and offers himself to us. The requirement on our part is that we offer ourselves to him and live for him. It is not a long list of rules and laws we are to follow, but rather it is a life of love for God and all other people that we are to live, and the presence of the Living God in our lives actually enables us to do this. We are not left alone, struggling to climb our way to God. God has come to us and offers us his grace and power in our lives to remain in his presence.

Christmas is about God coming to earth to eliminate the distance between us and him. Christmas is about the Son, the Living God, who took on flesh and dwelt among us so that we could dwell with him.

Ezekiel 20:41 and How the Lord is Revealed to the World

atheist-agnostic-56209170227_xlargeHow many times have you heard, “I would consider believing in God if I could just get some proof that he exists”? This seems to be a typical mantra among people who want to sound open-minded, but have the luxury of not making a decision at all. It is easy to place the blame on agnostics for choosing not to make a choice, or atheists who have chosen not to believe in God, as having come to an incorrect decision on their own. After all, faith is a personal matter and we all have to make our own decisions, right?

Look at what the Lord says through Ezekiel to the Jewish people, though, after they have experienced God’s judgment, learned their lesson from unfaithfulness, and are living in exile:

41 When I bring you out from the nations and gather you from the countries where you are scattered, I will accept you as a pleasing aroma. Through you I will be made holy in the sight of the nations.

It is through the faithfulness of the covenant people that God will be made holy in the world. It is when the people called by his name actually live up to that calling that the rest of the world will know there is a difference between living in relationship with God and not living in relationship with God. It is when we are faithful that the rest of the world will know the Lord is God.

Jesus made a similar statement when he said that the world would know we are his disciples by our love for one another (John 13:34-35). Everyone in the world is responsible for making their own choices concerning God, but we bear much of the blame for not allowing them to make an informed choice. We have withheld the evidence that shows God is real and makes a difference in our lives. In the West, we have created a version of Christianity that looks just like our culture, whether on the right or the left of the political spectrum. And our cultural Christianity has infighting just like the right and the left of our culture. The ones in the middle remain silent, just like our culture. And the our culture decided that they could live exactly how they do now without any added burdens of losing a Sunday morning out of their schedule or giving money to another charity.

We bear much of the blame for not showing our culture that there is a difference in being a follow of Jesus and not being a follower of Jesus. How to do that is much more involved than can be communicated in a blog post. If you would like to continue this conversation, you can contact me here.

I would just leave you with a prophetic word from Ezekiel 16:49-50 that also has meaning for us in the West today:

49 This is the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were proud, had plenty to eat, and enjoyed peace and prosperity; but she didn’t help the poor and the needy. 50 They became haughty and did detestable things in front of me, and I turned away from them as soon as I saw it.

New Book Released!

41jiSxVr+KLI just had a book released on Amazon called Subtle Lies: How a Bad Understanding of Pride, Humility, and Love Can Undermine Your Life in Christ.

Here is the link for the book.

It is a short study for groups or individuals that can help Christians think about some fundamental aspects of the faith in new ways. I hope you enjoy it!

Ruth 1:16-17 and Being Faithful to God

storypicThe story of Ruth is a wonderful story of God being faithful to people and people being faithful to God.  It is an interesting story, as well, given that it took place “during the days when the judges ruled” (1:1).  So now, when the Book of Judges continually showed how unfaithful the Israelites were by intermarrying with the peoples around them, the main character here is a Moabite woman.  It is important not to justify condemning an entire people group.  Individuals must be dealt with on the basis of their own character.  Ruth’s character is amazing.  She states to Naomi, her mother-in-law:

“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.  Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”

This is truly amazing!  In a culture that held deeply to the idea that God blessed the faithful, this goes against all conventional wisdom.  Ruth here is giving up her homeland, her family, and her gods.  She chooses to go with Naomi and worship Naomi’s God.  Think about this!  The Lord has caused a famine, killed her father-in-law, her brother-in-law, her husband, and left her destitute without any children.  And this is the God Ruth chooses to follow!

There must have been something about Naomi’s faith that held Ruth close to her.  Indeed, Naomi never looses faith in the Lord, although she is convinced that the Lord is punishing her for something (1:20-21).  Naomi’s faith in God must have allowed her to act in a loving and honorable manner to Ruth.  This commitment to Ruth was then reciprocated when Ruth committed to follow Naomi and to worship her God.

There are times in our lives when our faithfulness in times of distress and disappointment can have more of an impact on others than our faithfulness to God in times of blessing.  It is easy to Give thanks to the Lord for He is good when our homes are nice and well furnished, our families are healthy, and our pantries are full.  It is easy to have faith when it seems that God answers all of our prayers.  It is much more difficult to show faith when nothing seems to work out and it feels like our prayers hit a barrier before they reach God.  Yet that is when our faith can shine brightest, when life seems darkest.

Ruth most likely would have gone back to her family and her people just like her sister-in-law Orpah did, if it was not for the faith of Naomi that impressed upon her that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was the one true God.  When we encounter hardships and disappointments in our own lives, let us remember that our faithfulness in those instances can have an eternal impact on others around us–as shown by Naomi and Ruth.  May we continue being faithful to God in the hardships of life.