Read part 1 of this series here.
As I mentioned in the first portion of this post, God’s been pressing on my mind just how critical it is that our hearts be transformed by gazing upon Christ. No amount of rules are going to bind our sinful nature. Only Christ’s death upon the cross, where he defeated sin once, for all, and where our fleshly nature is bound in Christ, has the power to crush the sin within us. However, knowing this and actually experiencing it are two different things, and not without it’s share of struggle and battle for faith.
Though I’ve known the truth that we have indeed “been crucified with Christ” and that, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20) for a few years now, but the old nature still seems to have much power over this new man. There have certainly been errors in Kelly and I’s relationship in the 3 months since it began, some great and some small. We are not without sin. The difference that an understanding of the fullness of the Gospel brings is that rather than feeling condemned and desperate to atone for our errors in order to restore the “Christian” part of ourselves by putting more rules in place and trying harder, we have been consistently humbled by the Gospel of grace and left all the more in awe of Christ. Rather than pushing us away from the Lord, our sin has drawn us into a greater love of his precious work upon the cross and intercession for us as our risen savior. Far from such radical grace causing us to think, “let us sin, that grace may abound!” it has caused us to hate sin all the more, not for simply its consequences, but for the fact that it displeases the one whom we love.
This, I am convinced, is far more pleasing to the Lord than the cleanest, most righteous relationship developed by human strength. And, in the long run, it will do far more to grow the fruit of righteousness, for we think most upon what we love most, and according to Colossians it is setting our minds upon Christ that will kill sin.
I urge you, my fellow believers, to ensure that you are applying the gospel to all aspects of your life and not attempting to use “man made religion” in order to sanctify or save yourself. Casting yourself unreservedly upon the grace of God will bring you far more joy and freedom than any manner of rules and regulations will, and it will bear witness to the world of the type of Lord we serve.
In closing, I’ll list a couple of practical ways Kelly and I have (and are) going about doing this in our own lives and relationship, as well as some resources that have stimulated much of my thought on this and the larger subject of sanctification that is at hand.
- First and foremost, cultivate a love for Christ as an individual. If we aren’t grounded, rooted, and growing (abiding) in Christ on our own, there is no way that we will do it together.
- A couple crucial ways to grow in Christ as an individual are;
- Read, study, and meditate upon the scriptures. If we are to set our minds on things that are above and not on earthly things, we need to know what those things above are. Scripture is one of God’s central ways to teach us those things.
- Spend time in prayer. Personally, I do this in a couple ways, from specific times where I get on my knees for 10-30 minutes and directly pray through things that are on my heart or on the list of things that I keep to the practice of regularly pausing for a few seconds throughout the daily routine to lift up a quick prayer to the Lord and acknowledge his presence.
- Get connected in a local church and Christian community. There are few things that will do more to grow your faith and deepen your roots in Christ than to be with others who are seeking the same thing.
- Do each of the things listed above together, especially the getting connected in a Christian community.
- Be on mission and do Kingdom work together. Kelly and I have had some great experiences in this. Doing ministry together was the way we got to know each other, and that continues today. It’s an awesome thing to be able to talk to each other about the people we’re discipling, the struggles and joys of the work, to bounce ideas of each other, and to be able to life each other up in prayer.
- Invite other people to hold you accountable, as individuals and a couple. Being a part of the Christian community aught to naturally bring this about in some ways, but it’s hugely beneficial to make it explicit and to know that there are people there who have your back and will call you on your sins and remind you of the Lord’s grace.
- Communicate your struggles, and everything else. Knowing where the other person is strong and weak is crucial to “presenting each other complete in Christ”.
- Don’t be afraid to set boundaries. This might seem to fly in the face of everything I’ve said in the last to posts, but it really doesn’t. Paul got at this seeming paradox when he declared that, “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” As you get to know your own and each other’s weaknesses, don’t be stupid and put yourself in compromising situations. Instead, be wise enough to follow the leading of the Spirit and lay out some ground rules that will keep you from setting your mind on earthly things and thereby sinning.
Lastly, here’s a post over on Tullian Tchvidjian’s blog at The Gospel Coalition that contains some great thoughts on sanctification and the growing process, as well as some dialogue between him and some other men who understand the Gospel in all it’s glory. Enjoy!
Updated 6/24/2011 – Just read another great post that contributes to Tchvidijian’s posts that I linked to above. Read it here.