…and letting the difficult remain difficult.
It is the challenge of mankind. We long to simplify the difficult and complicate the simple. It is how we make money, how we create margin so that we stand out in society and how we control. And most of the time we do it without any nefarious intentions.
There definitely are charlatans out there who do such things intentionally, but most people are very innocent when they believe that the government can spend in ways that individuals can’t, and that is somehow okay. But I’m not here to pontificate about our government spending.
A Paradox of Human Proportions
Human nature seems to dictate that we are lazy and suspicious all at the same time. We tend, as a whole, to shy away from difficult things. This results in having to place full trust in experts who tell us what to think. Then, when someone comes along and tells us that what the experts have done is to complicate a simple matter, we look at them with contempt. We are a funny lot, humans.
I have been thinking about the relationship between justification and sanctification lately. The Lord has done a funny thing for us. He has offered to us a salvation, free of charge. We cannot buy it, we do not deserve it and we can never work to earn it. But that is actually a fairly easy concept for most people. We are born into this world in the same condition. We are completely helpless and at the mercy of our parents’ affections.
We were not born because we deserved to be. We were not born because we could afford it. When we are born, we are expensive, lazy moochers who do nothing but eat, sleep and poop. And we are universally adored for it. If you take away the photos and videos of cats, babies make up about 99.8% of what Facebook is used for.
So, we get justification. God loved us so much that He redeemed us and we must simply accept Him. But justification (salvation through grace), in all of its simplicity, is something we will ponder for the rest of our natural lives and on into eternity. We will never come to an end of the wonder, glory and sheer weight of what God has done for us. He, God Himself, placed upon Himself the full punishment of our sin to redeem us while we were still in sin. As simple as the concept is, for all its human relatability, we will never, ever, for all eternity, come to an end of its exploration.
A Paradox of Godly Proportions
Sanctification, on the other hand, is a very difficult concept. It is our part of growing in godliness. It is our “work” after salvation to be more Christlike. But what makes it difficult is that we still have no hand in it. We can’t make ourselves more like Christ any more than we can make ourselves more like a bird. I can buy a hang glider and think I have made myself into a bird, but as soon as one comes pecking at its fabric that keeps me alive, I’ll get very nervous.
But scripture makes it clear that it is our job to earnestly seek to be more like Christ. So that’s an obvious paradox. And as opposed to justification, when we enter into eternity, we will forever lay aside sanctification. We will be made perfect and whole. It will be but a passing thought forever. It is as difficult a topic as the Bible puts forth.
And that’s okay.
But what have we done? We have tried to simplify sanctification and complicate salvation. We, as humans, have done it throughout history, and we are doing it again in a big way in our culture today.
Here We Go Again
There is a serious move right now to confuse the two issues. It is going on in several different circles simultaneously. On one hand you have what some are calling the “hypergrace” message–that we are saved, sanctified and perfect right out of the gate. (I’m actually oversimplifying the topic to save space–so there you go). On the other hand you have an increasingly liberal gospel, where there is not so much emphasis on accepting Jesus as there is in doing the right things. Social justice, an ever-evolving moral code and a belief that everyone is inherently good are its mantra.
But what if, instead of trying to make complex the simple and simple the complex, why don’t we let both of them rest on their own merits?
Salvation is an easy concept on purpose. It is easy because God requires that unregenerate people accept Him. Before we accept God, we do not have the Holy Spirit living on the inside of us. We must be able to use this fallen mind and heart to choose to follow Him. He made that part easy for us.
But sanctification isn’t just complicated. It’s impossible. After we are saved, we begin down a road of purification that will be made complete upon our death. We can’t become perfect before we die. It’s a process that God leads us on that He doesn’t intend for us to complete. In fact, we can’t become more like Him at all. But that is why He has reserved sanctification for the saved. He fills us with the Holy Spirit at salvation–that supernatural presence of God Himself–so that we can now do the impossible. And it is Him doing it inside us, not ourselves. We must simply surrender our fleshly will to His perfect, supernatural will.
Our Need To Control
But all that requires that I completely trust God. I don’t completely understand where I fit into the equation, and I like things simple.
And that’s uncomfortable.
So we’ll invent ways of explaining the unexplainable and we will complicate the simple things. And then we’ll go for another spin on this ferris wheel.
Or maybe its time to get off and just let the simple be simple and the complex be complicated.
But until we do, enjoy a little of what we humans do best:
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