At Wednesday night’s Immerse Service this week I taught for an hour on the distinguishing work of the Holy Spirit on our behalf. Baptist churches are not known for robust exploration of the Person & work of the Holy Spirit. That is such a shame since it is the Holy Spirit who is God among us today and, via fear & ignorance, many Baptists awkwardly avoid the 3rd Member of the Godhead as if He offered little beyond the moment of our salvation. During the service I challenged those who were gathered to really begin to seek a deeper understanding and fuller intimacy with God the Spirit. At the end of our hour in the Word it seemed that we all left very thirsty for all that God has for His children.
None of us has yet reached the pinnacle of our salvation. There is so much more room to grow in our relationship with God. Yes, it is gloriously good that we are saved from our sins but what about all the ensuing years between our salvation and our arrival in heaven? How then do we live? Well, we can describe our salvation in this manner: Justification (past activity of God on our behalf) > Sanctification (present activity of God on our behalf) > Glorification (full act of God on our behalf). Because we are living in the process of sanctification we should be well aware that we are not yet fully what we could be or should be. We still sin. We wrestle with the world and the flesh. We fail to properly resist the devil and, therefore suffer consequences in unnecessary defeats. No, we are not yet experiencing our glorification but…we have experienced our justification. It is because of our justification that we are no longer what we once were, nor are we what others who have not been justified currently are. We are most definitely new creations upon whom rests zero condemnation from God; though we need to confess that we are clearly imperfect for the time being. In spite of the reality of our current imperfections, James’ epistle, in chapter number two, reminds us that an inner faith undeniably flows with outer actions. It is not that we are saved by our good works but, rather, that our good works evidence our true salvation. I think it would serve us well to create two lists that will enable us to 1) be encouraged by God’s gracious transforming of our lives and 2) to be humbled that there are acknowledged areas of further change needed within us.
List #1 – Celebration: Take some time to write down areas wherein you clearly see the evidence of your faith resulting in good works. It may be that you have been made generous. It might be an inner thirst for prayer or a love for the Word. Perhaps you have experienced the eagerness to forgive others or it may be that you have been graced to serve anonymously behind the scenes with no desire for credit. You may never want to preach or sing but you have a zeal for sending a card, making a phone call or offering a meal to those in need. What evidence is there in your life that God has made you new? What can you celebrate as His gracious work in and through you? Be thorough and patient and welcome God to show you how He has changed you since you received Jesus Christ by faith. Celebrate the good works that He has given as evidence of His saving you.
List #2 – Hope: Not as enjoyable as the first, this list should focus on areas where your faith should be revealed more clearly. Don’t avoid the conviction here but rather embrace it as God’s nudging that herein is opportunity to bring Him further glory. This list might include your need to invest more energy in personal service to others. You may discover a reluctance to exhibit faith in your financial sacrifice for Kingdom endeavors, relying on the presumed security of keeping money instead of the joy of releasing. Perhaps you struggle with fear of embarking on new opportunities which will test your trust in God. Are you nursing a grudge against someone else? Jesus spoke of the reality of your light being potentially hidden under a basket of some sort; you’ve not allowed that to occur have you? Linger here for a moment and welcome God to speak to you about areas that are not revealing your trust in Him through resulting good works. Petition Him in hope as you welcome Him to bring good works from dammed up portions of your life-stream.
You see, we live in the tension of the “already but not yet” reality of the Christian experience. We are working out our own salvation though certainly not working for our salvation. God has ordained it all, provided for it all in His Son and is accomplishing it all through His Spirit. Paul wrote of his maddening experience in battling his flesh in Romans 7:14-25 and then came right behind it with the anthem of joyful praise in Romans 8. Paul recognized, as we also must, that the object of His assurance was not his impeccable spiritual performance but, rather, Christ’s perfect performance which had been placed on Paul’s account when He believed. The Christian is in perfect standing with God and this is what generates in us to pursue intimacy and depth with Him. We don’t have to obey – we want to obey. We are not forced to cultivate depth with God – it is our driving desire when we walk in the Holy Spirit. So, as the weekend comes upon us I encourage you to make your lists mentioned above and then yield to your great God and call on His Holy Spirit to empower you to…enjoy your salvation to the fullest.