What we need to care about is conversion. It is conversion from unbelief not a cleaning up of a track record. I know that I used to buffet against this idea only because I heard or it may have been said in such a way that sanctification was not in mind. But in my own zealousness for sanctification to happen, which is God’s will for our lives, I do not want to put the holiness cart before the faith horse.
We have to first believe that he is. As we come to believe that he is we come to believe that he is a rewarded of those who diligently seek him. As we diligently seek him, he begins to hold the mirror up to our sin and then we begin to change for his glory. He rewards our faith with more faith which results with us begin made more like him. We are being disciple by him.
I understand people wanting to run from religion. This happens when it puts the sanctification process before the belief.
The only way this happens though is when we don’t remember compassion. If I forget compassion I get angry about the rampant sin and my message can get a bit distorted. If I focus on all the wrongs out there my message can get a little water heavy. Change your wicked ways and be converted! When it really is, be converted from unbelief and then God will help you with your wicked ways. You know, the way he helped me.
Now this is all intertwined however which is why is can become a tangled mess. The message of the Gospel is about a saving from ourselves. A saving from our sinful conditions. So it is not as though sin is not in the mix, in fact it is the very proof of the pudding. But sin is not an obstacle to be bested by us in order for entrance to God to be gained. Sin is the calling card that says even I am invited to his table. Huh? Yes, sin qualifies me as needing a savior. As we come to agree with this idea, is how we come to see Christ as compelling or not.
Sin does create a gulf, but it is not that we demand people to broach that gap in order to reach God. This is what creates such hostility to Christianity; if we somehow end up communicating that the gap must be breached by effort or sin management. Ironically enough this is why other religions do not get the same flack because addressing sin directly is rarely their issue, there is always some other path or journey to be done that is supposed to bring about better results without dealing with the sin. But sin is not ours to deal with, it is God’s. But is it the major factor. God dealt with it so that consequently we deal with him directly. We journey together through sanctification and we reach the goal of himself together.
The cross creates the bridge and hopefully we come over it. This is when sanctification begins, not before. God comes along side us and his Holy Spirit empowers us to walk in a new light. Once our filthy garments have been replaced with robes of righteousness we are able to walk anew. We begin to walk in our new nature but this takes time. This is the process of walking with God. It is called grace. God graciously offers us forgiveness and graciously responds to our growing pains with grace yet again.
But here is the point. Our new belief leads us in the direction of sanctification.
1 Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor.
The will of God is our sanctification. Paul is talking specifically about sexual sin here but the points stands. Belief in God is movement, not simply a registration. Walking with God is supposed to result in a changed life. We walk out of darkness and begin to walk in the light. This is a sticking point however. If all we tell people is God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life, then sometimes we get push back when we next say, um might you want to walk in a bit more light than that?
Saying that is every pastor’s charge as Paul spent so much time doing. But we have to remember that to speak exhortation is to speak to a regenerate heart. This should be an appeal to the faith that they hold. This should be a goal in the heart of the hearer. This is why Jesus reminds us to check the fruit, because we should be producing something. But in saying these charges compassion is always key.
Love woos an unregenerate heart. Love to an unregenerate heart looks like compassion. It is compassionate because we know what it is like before belief. We can relate because we needed the Gospel of grace explained to us. We needed belief before sanctification and so do they. But to get there they may need a friendly ear.
So what angle is the Gospel coming from with you? As the message passes through the prism of your heart what comes out? Is it cart before the horse sanctification? I doubt any of us would willingly communicate a works salvation, but what do our interactions describe? What do our churches communicate? Worse yet, what do our social media personas unintentionally demand? Think about it.
As we put on compassion we testify that our belief is real. As we put on compassion we make the idea of belief more appealing. So let compassion be your angle for the Gospel to come from. I hate sin and how it destroys lives, but if I let it blot compassion then my message distorts, carts and horses all.
Getting right with God is about belief, that other stuff comes later.