The Soul: Justified & Sanctified
First, becoming justified. Then, sanctified.
There is no topic more paramount than the justification of your soul. Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Satan, sin and death were conquered. And a pathway was opened wide and clear for this fallen world to be reconciled with God. Your part to play in this is a simple yet profoundly critical choice. The only choice that matters. Will you take the free gift of salvation offered to you by the sacrifice of Christ?
I have an atheist acquaintance who once got into a friendly debate with me over this topic. He said if he had sinned against another person, he understood them taking offense. But why would some God somewhere care about what he'd done? He hadn't sinned against that God, so why does he owe that God anything? At the time, I was unable to answer him.
A couple of years later, the answer came to me while listening to the message that Pastor Caleb Campbell was giving at Desert Springs Bible Church. Caleb said that when God created the universe he poured out his love into it. You can see the care and creativity put into all things, from the grandiose galaxy down to the veins of a leaf. God is truly the muse for every artist there ever was, inspiring all human creative endeavors from Day Six on with the immeasurable beauty of the universe around us.
And no creation was more favored than mankind. We were given a soul, and animated by God's very breath. He made us in his image. Every day he walked with us in the Garden, wanting to savor his relationship with us. We were loved and cherished.
But we invited evil here.
When you have a child whom you love and adore, and you raise them with great care, and then they choose to invite evil into their lives.... it hurts.
If you think of it from his perspective, he has had to sit and watch evil inhabit and destroy from the inside out that which he loves and holds dear. Because he gave us freedom, as unconditional love requires, we had a choice. We made the wrong one. And he was most definitely the offended party.
Once evil took up residence here, we got what Adam and Eve wanted. They knew the difference between good and evil. But I bet they regretted the choice. Yet they had no power to take it back.
But God did not sit, victimized, and feel sorry for himself. He made a plan to get us back. He decided to send his son to become flesh and take on our punishment so that we could be reconciled to him again. So he could take back that intimate relationship. That is why Jesus Christ, the Good News for All Mankind, came to us. That is why he lived, that is why he died. He paid for our sins so we could be justified, evil could be eradicated, and all could be forgiven.
So if I have the opportunity to see that atheist acquaintance again, I now know the answer to his question. When you sin against someone's cherished child, you sin against them. When you sin against God's beloved creation, you sin against him. What mankind owed, and what Jesus paid, was an enormous debt.
If you have never been reconciled to the Father through the Son, I invite you to do that now. HE invites you to do it. It is only a matter of choosing to believe and trust in him. Of saying, "God, I have sinned against you, but I want to be reconciled. I want you to save me and dwell in my heart. Please give me the gift of salvation made possible by your son, Jesus Christ."
Salvation and eternal life with God are a gift. You can only have a gift if you accept it. A gift offered to someone who refuses it remains with the giver. It's up to you to accept. The opposite of salvation and eternal life are damnation and everlasting death. That is why there is no choice more critical and no subject more paramount than this. Your eternity is at stake.
But God is not finished with you once you have been saved. Justification is the dawn, and sanctification is the rest of the day. Once you've let in the son-light, he begins a good work in you: bringing you to Christlikeness.
If God has saved us, aren't we done? Shouldn't we live our lives as we want, and look forward to eternal life? Paul asked the same question in the book of Romans:
6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
In the yoga community, there is a lot of talk about enlightenment. About the attaining of a state of being where you are free from suffering, free from the selfishness of the egoic mind, and perpetually united to divinity in bliss. The Yoga Sutras, which are often used in teacher training, explain the "steps" to achieving the goal. You could say it is a twist on works-based righteousness.
In Old Testament times, the people had the law to tell them what to do and not to do. If they could follow the law perfectly, then they would be in no need of salvation. But none of them could achieve that. So, they would offer sacrifices for their sins, giving a spotless, innocent animal as recompense.
No matter where you go, no matter the religion or creed you hold dear, there is this idea that if you follow a strict path you will achieve righteousness. You will find God. You will regain what we lost when we invited evil here.
But hang around on planet Earth long enough and you will discover what all human beings, reaching back through the ages, have already known: nobody's perfect. The systems we've erected set us up for failure. God is not attainable that way.
It is a good thing that human beings are not the only ones working on the reconciliation of God and man. We cannot attain God by scrambling to climb heavenward, but he can reach down and pull us up. The secret is the surrender of our desire to do it ourselves, to be the author of our own salvation. The secret is to let God help you.
He created us to be in perfect unity and everlasting relationship with him. He created us so we could be loved by him, love him completely, and love those around us unconditionally. Allow him to reach down and pull you up. Cooperate with him in this work of reunion he began in you.
Decide you will choose the best instead of the good: "'All things are lawful for me,' but not all things are helpful." (1 Cor 6:12)
Decide you will not be dominated by sin, but dwell in freedom: "'All things are lawful for me,' but I will not be dominated by anything." (1 Cor 6:12) "Do not submit yourselves again to a yoke of slavery." (Gal 5:1)
Decide to walk in newness of life, and let the dead stay dead: "...in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life." (Rom 6:1)
Did you ever notice that the pursuit of happiness is the goal of every human being? Deep down, achieving lasting happiness is the motivation for everything you do.
Rejoice, because happiness is what you receive when you cooperate with God. It is his goal for you. But he has no illusions as to what will make you happy and what will cause that happiness to last forever. He knows that when you are in union with him, you will be happy. That is what he created you for:
Joy, unending joy.
Peace that passes understanding.
Hope that does not disappoint.
Love that endures forever.
Faith that can move mountains.
Life, and life abundant.
And he has promised he will bring that work to completion.
Be encouraged, brothers and sisters in Christ. Putting sin to death in your life is a painful, long and trying process at times, but cooperation with God leads to rewards that far exceed that pain. Let his Spirit, alive in you, give you rest. Rely on his promises. Fight the good fight, run the race. Keep his words always at the forefront of your mind:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33