In the on-going review of our Disciple Training Series–Workout Room–here is the second exercise at the Sanctification level, an exercise which will help us understand the important role that the Holy Spirit plays in our lives. It is found at… Sanctification: The Work of the Holy Spirit | His Truth, My Voice (histruthmyvoice.org).
In the fourth and last replay of our Salvation Series exercises, we tackle the controversial issue of Eternal Security–the question of whether or not a Christian can lose his salvation–in an exercise which can be found at Salvation: Can We Lose It? | His Truth, My Voice (histruthmyvoice.org)
In this replay of our previous post, Salvation: Do We Have a Choice in the Matter? | His Truth, My Voice (histruthmyvoice.org), we tackle the tricky and often confusing subject of Predestination and Election. I hope this rather brief explanation will help eliminate some of that confusion.
Continuing on in our replay of the series on Discipleship Training that was started back in March 2016–a series of Spiritual Exercises covering the topics of Salvation, Sanctification, Service, and Spiritual Warfare–here is the second in that series. It deals with the New Birth, and can be found at Salvation: How Do We Get It? | His Truth, My Voice (histruthmyvoice.org).
Back in March 2016, I began a new series of posts dealing with what I considered to be the basics of Discipleship Training–something which the Church has, by and large, neglected to address in recent years. Given all the shaking that has taken place in our world during the past couple of years, and in anticipation of the coming harvest of souls that will be produced as a result of that shaking, I would like to Replay the posts found in that original series–a series of Spiritual Exercises covering the topics of Salvation, Sanctification, Service, and Spiritual Warfare, with several exercises under each of these topics.
The first of these exercises deals with the basics of Salvation and is found at… Salvation: What It Is and Why We Need It | His Truth, My Voice (histruthmyvoice.org).
The Monday night before one Easter several years ago, I casually asked my pastor husband what he would be preaching on the following Sunday. Although he usually has it all planned out by then, he said that he didn’t have anything special in mind at that point, and asked me if I had any ideas. I thought for a moment, then told him that the only thing that had come to mind was the expression new life. Since I was busy watching my favorite television program at the time, I didn’t give it another thought for the remainder of the evening. But the next day, when I began wondering what new life might have meant to Jesus’ disciples on that very first Resurrection Sunday, there were three things that immediately popped into my mind. They were freedom, hope, and power—freedom from the bondage they had known in the past; hope for a better, more meaningful life in the future; and the power they would need to leave the one behind and fully enter into the other.
Freedom…“For freedom Christ has set us free…Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another (Galatians 5:1, 13).”
From what I know about the times in which Jesus lived, it seems quite likely that most, if not all, of His disciples originally began following Him because they expected Him to be the leader of a rebellion that would secure the freedom of the Jews from their oppressive Roman overlords. This, however, was not the kind of freedom that Jesus came to bring them. Instead of the temporal political liberation that they had been longing for for so long, the liberation that He came to provide was one which was spiritual in nature, and one that would endure throughout all eternity. And, while they couldn’t have realized the full import of that type of liberation on that first Easter morning, in time they would come to treasure and rejoice in the freedom it gave them from…
- The penalty and power of their sin;
- Their fear of and enslavement to death; and,
- The legalistic religious system under which they had had to operate all of their lives.
Because of the Resurrection of Jesus, never again would they have to…
- Live day in and day out, wondering if they had “done enough” to have their sins forgiven, and if they were “righteous” before God;
- Live dreading death and wondering what eternity would hold for them;
- Offer up another sacrificial lamb, for the last and Perfect Lamb had just been offered;
- Go through an earthly priest to get to God, for the Great High Priest had come and would soon be seated at the right hand of the Father and interceding for them; or,
- Work at observing the letter of the Mosaic Law because the Holy Spirit would soon begin writing the Laws of God upon their hearts!
Wow, what a sense of freedom that must have been!
Hope…“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 3-5).”
As a result of these new-found freedoms, new life would have also meant that the disciples could begin to enjoy a hope that they had never known before; a hope that…
- As the born again Sons and Daughters of God, they could stand forgiven before God in the righteousness of Christ Jesus;
- While Jesus was seated in Heaven interceding for them, He would also be living in and through them by His Spirit; and,
- Jesus, the Blessed Hope, would one day return and take them to Heaven with Him, where they would stand in the presence and glory of God, and receive the inheritance that had been set aside for them and for all the saints.
Power…“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the knowledge of him…that you may know…what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him form the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come (Ephesians 1:16-21).”
Of course, setting men free from their bondage to sin and death, from their centuries old religious traditions, and all the while giving them new life through a rebirth of their spirits was no mean task; it would require a power that had never before been seen by mortal men. And yet, this is the kind of power that was demonstrated when God, after Jesus had conquered the powers of hell and the grave, raised Him from the dead and seated Him in the place of honor at His right hand. And, the wonder of it all is that this same power, which was available to God’s only Begotten Son, is the very same power that He has made available to each of His adopted children—that is, to those of us who have placed our faith in this resurrected Christ. For the power that can raise someone from the dead is the only power strong enough to free one from the chains of his past, to cleanse and purify him of his sins and place him in the position of an adopted child God, and then to lead him to victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil. No wonder the disciples had cause to rejoice!
But they weren’t the only ones with a reason to do so; like them, we have become the beneficiaries of this new life of freedom, hope, and power which was made available through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This matchless gift of new life is something that this Easter should serve to remind us of, and something which we, as the modern-day disciples of Christ, should be rejoicing in every other day of the year.
Travis Cottrell sings “Jesus Saves”…
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)
Try to imagine with me, if you can, what human history might look like to God, as He surveys it from beginning to end. From the prophetic insight given to us by Isaiah in the passage above, it seems quite likely that God would view it as a forest of trees, one stretching all the way from the Garden of Eden to the coming Paradise in the new Heaven and Earth; trees which, in His eyes, are representative of the countless lives of men and women throughout history who have been made righteous by the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. As plantings of God, they have come in every size and shade imaginable, yet all producing the same desired fruit of holiness by which the Lord God, the creator and sustainer of all the earth, will forever be glorified! What a truly satisfying picture this would be for God to behold; nothing less than a magnificent tapestry depicting His marvelous and ages-long redemption story; an intricately woven work of art designed to surround His throne and to testify of His unfathomable love, grace, and mercy for all eternity.
Although some may not be all that familiar with tapestries, they have been around for quite a long time, with some known to have been in use as far back as ancient Greece. Similar in texture to carpets, but hung on walls instead of covering floors, tapestries have served as portable murals for centuries, often gracing the throne rooms of kings as ways of depicting the memorable events or victories that have taken place during their reigns. Typically, tapestries are woven on vertical looms, or large wooden frames, that hold two sets of threads—the longer set being the stationary, immutable threads running lengthwise which are called the “warp,” with the shorter set being the variable threads running width-wise which are called the “weft.” The threads making up the warp are held in place under tension by the two sturdy frames at the end of the looms; while the shorter and discontinuous weft (threads) are woven in and out of part or all of the warp to create the design of the tapestry.
With this imagery in mind, let’s try to imagine how such a weaving process might be applied to the story of God’s redemption. To begin, let’s close our eyes and try to visualize an enormous loom being set into place by God when, “In the beginning…,” He bracketed the timeline for His redemptive story through the placement of two sturdy frames, one marking the beginning and the other marking the ending of human history. Having already discussed these at great length during several of our previous visits, we should be quite familiar with the two wooden frames by now; for they are the two trees that man was given to choose from in the Garden of Eden. The tree that was chosen, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, in its choice, became the beginning frame for the tapestry; while the tree that was rejected, the Tree of Life, took its place as the end frame—the frame toward which all of the design work was to be directed.
Given the enormous distance between these two frames and the incredible number of events that the design of this tapestry was meant to depict, we should not be surprised to learn that an additional piece of wood had to be inserted at the midpoint of the loom in order to secure and support the weight of the weaving work which would be taking place upon it. This plank was a tree, too, and one that we have also already discussed; for it was the Cross on which the Son of God was crucified; the lifeless tree which, throughout time, has served as the embodiment of all of mankind’s dead works and futile attempts at self-salvation.
Now, with the framework for the loom all set up in our minds, let’s begin to visualize the commencement of the weaving process as the first set of threads are placed on the loom. These are the warp, and for the purposes of this tapestry, they are ten unbreakable cords which have been stretched tautly from, and then securely fastened to, the first side frame, over the middle plank, and on to the other side frame. White in color and extending out across the ages, these cords are God’s eternally fixed standards of holiness–His unchanging rules for righteous living–known to us as the Ten Commandments; the plumb lines against which the actions of all men have been and will be measured. It is only fitting that these should be the first threads that are woven into the fabric of redemption because, unlike everything else…
…the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
…the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
…the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever, the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether (Ps. 19:7-9).
Given the nature of these laws, what better foundation for redemption could have been laid, other than these?
With God’s laws now securely attached to the frames of the loom, the really intricate work on the tapestry can begin to get underway. What makes this part of the process so tricky is that before the weft—or those short and variegated “loose threads”created by humanity’s failures to measure up to the standards of God’s laws—can be woven over and under that holy warp, they must first be tied to the crimson cord which runs through the entire length of the tapestry’s design. This cord was introduced into the human story immediately following man’s first violation of God’s command and, as the cord of redeeming faith, it went on to connect every image in the story, from the beginning frame at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, all the way to the Cross, and then on to the end frame at the Tree of Life.
Of course, this cord is none other than our Redeemer, Jesus Christ; the One who was promised, the One who came, and the One who will come again—and, the only One capable of salvaging all of the threads left dangling by the sins of mankind and then incorporating them into a beautiful and eternal work of art for all to behold. And how was He able to do this? By dying the death that should have been ours, on the tree representing all of our dead works, He was able to remove sin’s curse, and open the way to the Tree of Life once more, to any and all who would believe.
Try to imagine with me, if you can, God looking around His throne room, gazing lovingly upon His glorious tapestry of redemption—the one depicting the millions, perhaps even billions, of oak trees that were made righteous through their faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ; each tree springing up from a seed sown in the earth and then growing toward heaven, and each tree reproducing that one seed many times over through an abundant spiritual harvest, some of which will include…
…the “peaceful fruit of righteousness” produced through the discipline of the Lord (Heb. 12:11);
…the fruit of a life transformed by the Spirit, in which the very character of Christ was reproduced;
…the fruit of many answered prayers;
…the fruit of souls won for the Lord; and,
…the fruit produced whenever fear was overcome by faith, darkness was overcome by the light, and the flesh was overcome by the Spirit.
Try to imagine with me, if you can, the kind of joy a sight such as this would bring to the heart of God. Given that joy, let me ask you this question…when, at the end of time, God scans His forest of trees, will He find you there? Will you be a part of His tapestry of redemption—one of His oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified? If not, can there possibly be a good reason why?
The Tapestry of Redemption presented in song, by the Tally Trio in “He Saw Me/Jesus Paid it All.”
In our first set of exercises, we began stretching our spiritual muscles as we learned some of the basic principles of Salvation, such as…
- What it is and why we need it;
- How to obtain it through the New Birth;
- That it’s God’s destiny for everyone but that only those who “elect” to have it will receive it; and,
- Once it is received, it can never be lost or stolen.
We also learned that Salvation is the process by which God redeems lost sinners—those who have been in bondage to the world, the flesh, and the devil since their births; buying their freedom for them through the substitutionary death of Christ on the Cross and making it possible for them to be adopted into the family of God as His children.
A person’s Salvation isn’t limited to his just being adopted by God, though; it also involves his being transformed into a true Christ-resembling Child of the Most High. That’s because, once a person becomes a child of God through the process known as the New Birth, he or she can no longer continue to think, speak, and act like the sinner he or she once was; instead, he or she must learn to think and behave in a manner befitting the son or daughter of a Holy King. And this is where Sanctification comes into play.
As we discovered in Salvation: What It Is and Why We Need It, Sanctification is the second of the three Stages in Salvation, with the first being Redemption and the last being Glorification; and, that it means…
To make holy; set apart as sacred; consecrate;
To purify or free from sin;
To make productive of or conducive to spiritual blessing.
And, according to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, it is something which…
…involves more than a mere moral reformation of character, brought about by the power of the truth: it is the work of the Holy Spirit bringing the whole nature more and more under the influences of the new gracious principles implanted in the soul in regeneration. In other words, sanctification is the carrying on to perfection the work begun in regeneration, and it extends to the whole man.
The Work of Regeneration
In order to better understand the work being referred to here, we will need to go back to Salvation: How Do We Get It, where we learned that…
…Regeneration is the act by which our dead spirits are brought back to life again by the Holy Spirit of God…
…and, where we learned that the need for this regeneration goes all the way back to Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden. For it was there that their spirits, as well as those of all of their future descendants, died—or were separated or cut off from God. As for how this spiritual death impacted them, and us, in practical terms, it not only shut down the communication system that God had established between Him and them, but it also overturned the authority structure He had designed for His entire creation.
System Failure and Structural Collapse
When God created man, He fashioned him with a Spirit, Soul, and Body, so that…
- Through his Spirit, he could relate to and communicate with God;
- Through his Body, he could relate to and function in the physical world; and,
- Through his Soul, consisting of his mind, will, and emotions, he could relate to other human beings, with his soul also serving as the connecting point or mediator between his spirit and his body.
When this system was functioning as it should—which was prior to the entrance of sin into the world—it meant that…
- God’s Spirit could speak to man’s spirit, telling him what God wanted him to do;
- Man’s spirit could relay that message to man’s soul; and,
- Man’s soul could then direct his body to carry out the command that it had been given by God.
In this way, the will of God would be carried out on the earth by man.
As for the authority structure that God had devised for His creation, it was ordered along very similar lines—with God at the top of the structure, Man next in authority under Him, then the Woman (although an equal partner with her husband yet coming under his authority, for the sake of order and accountability), to be followed lastly by the creatures in the animal world. Given that this arrangement was one that had been ordained by God, it should come as no surprise that in his scheme to overturn it, Satan would come disguised as an animal (a creature at the lowest level of authority) and present himself first to the woman at the next level of authority; then when she had been won over, she could then be used to entice the man (at the next level up) to disobey God.
Unfortunately, and certainly unforeseen by our forbearers, this colossal structural collapse marked the beginning of mankind’s perpetual rebellion against authority in every form, manifesting itself not only in his rebellion against God’s authority, but also in the rebellion of wives against husbands, children against parents, workers against employers, and the governed against those governing them. It was also the spark needed to give rise to the egocentric lust for power that would eventually lead to the commission of every other kind of sin that man could imagine.
In addition, this sin resulted in the failure of the once ideal system of communication between God and Man. Instead of the top-down system previously described, it became a bottom up one in which man’s flesh, instead of his spirit, began dictating to him what his thoughts, feelings, and actions should be. With the death or separation of man’s spirit from God’s Spirit as a result of sin, there was no longer any communication taking place between God and man; a situation leaving man’s powerful fleshly appetites to determine what he would or would not do in any given situation–a situation which has remained until this day.
The Apostle James explains the consequences of this system failure in the following way…
…what causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war with you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel (James 4:1-2)…
…each person is tempted when he lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it is conceived gives birth to sin and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death (James 1:13-15).
Extending Regeneration to the Whole Man
Since the unregenerate, or…
…the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14)…
…when a person becomes Born Again, it then becomes the work of the Holy Spirit, through the process of Sanctification, to restore what was lost to that person as a result of The Fall and to reprogram him as to the right way to live. As we have just learned, this means that…
- His soul will have to be restored to its proper function; and,
- His inborn tendency to rebel against authority will have to be dealt with and brought under control.
Although this work is a challenging one, one taking a lifetime to complete, its success is insured by the presence of the Holy Spirit who, once a person has been regenerated, takes up residence within him. Then, working from the inside out, He not only begins teaching this new Child of God the right way to live, but He also provides him with the supernatural power he needs to succeed. Evidence of this success becomes apparent in the life of the believer as…
- He learns to communicate with God, his Father, through Prayer;
- His mind is transformed into the mind of Christ through the Study of God’s Word;
- The character of Christ is formed in him through Testing;
- The works of Christ are reproduced in his service through the Gifts of the Spirit; and,
- He learns to successfully wage Spiritual Warfare through his respect for and submission to God’s Authority Structure.
We will learn much more about this process of spiritual transformation in our upcoming workout sessions, as we begin the basic exercises in Sanctification dealing with Prayer, the Bible, Worship, the Fruit of the Spirit and Testing; with these being followed later by the more advanced exercises in Service, the Gifts of the Spirit, and Spiritual Warfare. But before moving on to these other exercises, we must first become better acquainted with our Trainer and Coach, the Holy Spirit–something we will do in our next session together. Until then…
…may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thes. 5:23)
The Sidewalk Prophets remind us that our salvation makes all things new…