Pigs in a Blanket: Sanctification Part II

How would you like to have these things added to your spiritual resume?:

· Literally followed Jesus everywhere he went for three years

· Walked on water toward Jesus

· Saw the risen Christ in the flesh

· Was personally restored to fellowship by said risen Christ after betraying Him

· Spoke in tongues toward the salvation of 3000 people in one day

· Laid hands on the Samarian believers and they received the Spirit

· Cast out demons

· Healed the lame

· Raised a woman from the dead

I would trust a guy who had done all these things. In fact, I would assume that this was a man who had “arrived” and had all his theological crackers in a stack. It is obvious by his resume that Peter was being mightily used by God, but he still had some major lessons to learn, even after all of these things took place.

In Acts 10, Peter traveled to Joppa, and there he had a vision. He saw what appeared to be a giant sheet with all sorts of unclean animals and heard a voice telling him to kill and eat some of them. (I shall take it as a personal sign that this passage was meant to speak to me, too, because “Pigs in a blanket” is one of my favorite foods.) Peter refused, but the voice said “What God has called clean, you must not call common.”

Peter was naturally perplexed at this vision, until three Gentiles knocked at the door. These men had been sent by a Roman Centurion who had been seeking the Lord. Peter then understood that the vision meant that he was to take the Gospel to the Gentiles.

Do you realize that other than the resurrection itself, this was possibly the biggest game-changer in the history of Israel and redemptive history? This changed everything and this revelation was given to a man who seemingly, should have already known everything. In fact, I think Peter was shocked as well as he reminded the Gentiles that even they well-knew how unlawful it was for him to even eat with them, much less give them the keys to the Kingdom of God! Peter even had to go on to defend his actions to the rest of the apostles in chapter 11. This was a very big deal! But sanctification requires change, and Peter was willing to change when God told him to.

I wonder how many “big deal” moments we miss when we aren’t constantly seeking the Lord and his truth above all. I don’t know about you, but I certainly have never witnessed or performed the miracles that Peter did, and I’ve never hung out with Jesus in the flesh for three years. So, I imagine I have much to learn and can never assume God is done teaching me little things or paradigm-changing things.

God’s word is full of amazing truths. What are you missing out on?

Why Christians Should Be Progressive

Progressive

­­This site is titled “Life in Progress,” which sounds more like your average self-help book than a Christian ministry. But there is a good reason why my sister, Jaclyn Rowe, gave that name to our speaking/writing ministry. It can be summed up in one word: Sanctification.

What we mean when we say “sanctification” is the process by which God is conforming us to the likeness of His son after we accept Christ and are born again. While some teach that sanctification can happen here, on this earth, in an instant; I am convinced that the New Testament clearly shows that this is an on-going process of growth. Even the apostle Paul longed to be free from “this body of death.”

So what does this have to do with being progressive?

Sanctification is a growing process, and things that are growing do not continue to look the same. This might sound like utter heresy on the surface, but Christians should be more open to change than just about anybody else. The Christian should always be making progress, and that requires change.

However, progress implies that there is a specific goal toward which you are moving. Unfortunately, the word “progress” has been hijacked and given a political connotation that is ultimately meaningless because it is almost never stated with a particular goal in mind. Change for the sake of change itself is not progress, it’s just change. But for the Christian, Christ is the goal, and constant change is always required – unless you’ve reached a state of sinless perfection and complete knowledge.

I don’t have complete knowledge, but what knowledge I do have and my love for the Lord is continually growing and it is exciting. Sadly, for many the Christian life is stale and becomes more about church business, tradition and routine rather than being conformed to the image of Christ – especially for those who grew up in the church and accepted Christ at a young age. If you went to church, you probably had a preacher who was never in doubt about anything and were probably never encouraged to question any doctrine or wrestle with big theological concepts. So, your life after salvation is very much the same as your life before salvation because we know that everything you could possibly need to know has been taught completely and perfectly in church, right? Why would you ever need to ask questions or study the Bible for yourself? But things that grow do not look the same.

I am convinced that God supernaturally adds verses to the Bible because when reading a “familiar” passage, I constantly find verses that “weren’t there before.” Truths that I never realized before seem to pop out of nowhere. I fully expect this phenomenon to continue for the rest of my life because there is always room to learn more of the mystery of God’s glory.

I want to be clear that this is not a hit against any specific church or denomination. I am trying to hit against complacency and/or the arrogance of thinking we “know it all.” At the risk of sounding like a rebel, I would encourage you to start examining every aspect of your faith if you never have. This is not license to simply believe whatever you like, but all things must stand the test of truth. If you are truly, honestly seeking the truth and asking God to reveal more of himself to you, then you will find it. And when your beliefs are affirmed or (gasp) changed by the truth given to you by the Holy Spirit and not just because the preacher said it, then your passion for the Lord will soar and you will truly begin to grow.

Sanctification can be a painful process. It might mean admitting you were wrong about a doctrine or belief that was handed down to you by elders. Such a break in tradition is a thing that should never be taken lightly. As G.K. Chesterton said, “Don’t ever take down a fence until you know the reason why it was put up.” But the Christian’s first loyalty must be to the truth and not to tradition or dogma, nor to the pressures of “relevance” or acceptance. To never question why you believe a doctrine or to go through life and never wrestle with a teaching from your elders is not a badge of honor. That kind of attitude implies that your teachers were perfect people with perfect interpretations, not people in the process of sanctification. There is a big difference between questioning the authority of the Bible and questioning your understanding of it.

And so, if your motives are true, ask your questions. Seek God and you will find that the more you learn, the more you realize just how much you don’t know.

 

Shutdown Your Faith In Government

When we see moral and cultural decay occur in our country, sometimes our response is to put a lot of effort into getting the “right” candidates elected to office. If we could just gain a majority of people who think like we do, they could outlaw everything bad and sinful and America would be great again, right? But I want to make a statement that, when I realized it, hit me like the proverbial “Mack Truck” Baptist evangelists were always threatening my life with at revivals:

Israel had perfect laws given to them straight from the hand of God. How’d they do with that?

 We have an entire Bible that emphasizes and reemphasizes the fact that the law cannot make a person/people/nation righteous. Righteousness is a matter of the heart, and the law does nothing to change that. In fact, sometimes it makes us worse. For example, if you’ve ever seen a sign that says, “Do Not Step On The Grass,” I would bet you have felt the desire to step on said grass.

I want to be clear that I am not about to say that Christians should completely abandon politics altogether. We should vote, and we should pray that God sends believers into the political arena as there are positive and negative effects to certain policy implementation.

But we should never put our hope for the redemption of people and their lives in politics. Our efforts to win elections should pale in comparison to our efforts to love, serve and evangelize the lost. We cannot legislate the gospel into the hearts of people, and when we try, it usually backfires.

This summer, I asked Stuart McAllister, an apologist for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries about how we as Christians should balance our respect for the right of others to disbelieve with our desire to make “good” laws.  I’ll never forget his answer:

“I don’t know exactly what the answer is,” said McAllister, “but I know this: people tend to get pretty angry when we come at them from a position of power, but they usually respond much better when we approach them from a position of service.”

When Jesus came, the Jewish people, including His disciples, wanted Him to take power and become a king. But His kingdom was not of this world. Yet, with no army, what started with one man and His 12 disciples and a handful of women changed the world. In fact, it seems through the New Testament, and history as well, that the less power the church has the more its influence grows.

If you’re concerned for America, that’s good. But what are you doing about it? If your answer revolves around trying to convince people on how they should vote or listening to talk radio or bemoaning the state of affairs at the water cooler or picketing – I challenge you to take all that energy spent on politics and compare it to your energy and zeal for the Lord.  How does it stack up?

Once again, I am preaching to myself. I had to force myself to stop listening to talk radio because it poisoned me against people for whom Jesus died and made me focus on the symptoms of an illness, rather than the illness itself. We cannot forget that our battle is not with political parties or even other countries, it is with the devil. And there is a Satan-crushing atom bomb that needs to be dropped on the hearts of every person possible called the gospel because only the gospel changes hearts. If you change hearts, politics will take care of itself. So, before we take others to task about how they vote, let’s try to take them to Jesus first.

The Best sermon on sexuality we’ve heard

David Platt, author of Radical and Follow Me delivers one of the best sermons on sexuality I’ve ever heard. I wish I had heard this sermon a decade ago.  If the player below won’t work, you can find it labeled “The Cross and Christian Sexuality Part 2” on this page: http://www.brookhills.org/media/series/the-cross-and-christian-community/v921