Ever wish progressive sanctification (being conformed into the image of the Son… from glory to glory) involved some version of a magic wand, pixy dust, or a beauty sleep induced from heaven to which you wake up changed!?
I have a dear friend who has said to me before something like, “I wish God would just knock me out, so I’d be sound asleep and then I’d wake up and not have this problem anymore. I wish I’d just wake up and be changed.”
I think she speaks something that we Christians often feel secretly. We have the Spirit of God in us. We see ourselves as the wretches we are. We hate our lives in the since that Jesus said, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple
.” (Luke 14:26
) And we wish God would just zap us and make us like Christ with the wave of His hand. What’s hard to accept is that God does this conforming of our lives to the image of His Son little by little AND with our cooperation.
In that section of scripture in Luke 14, where Jesus says if you don’t hate your own life you cannot be His disciple, He goes on to say, “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
” I like how Luke records it, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me
.” (Luke 9:23
) It’s a DAILY dying! It’s a daily process.
The sojourning life. The life of walking by faith through this life is a life of being transformed, day by day, into the image of God’s Son, and it’s a process by which we cannot change apart from Christ yet it is also a process by which God will not change us apart from our willingness partner with Him by obedience in being changed. We cannot transform ourselves into Christ’s image, but Christ will not impose His will upon us without our willing submission. He’s patient. He’s perfect. He disciplines. He chastises. He teaches. He encourages. He wills and acts in us even, but it must be worked out by us. We must willingly obey.
This is the hard thing about living the Christian life that we often wish was different. It would be so much easier wouldn’t it if God would just zap us and walla, we’d be Christ-like in ever area of our lives. But God doesn’t want robots or unwilling lovers. He wants willing vessels. Even willing vessels who say, “I don’t want to God, but nevertheless, not my will, but Your will be done in my life, as it already is in heaven, in Christ, finished and done!”
I finished reading this morning and in the bathroom and in brief readings between folds of laundry today a very challenging and equipping book by Lou Priolo, Teach Them Diligently
. In it he writes of the fallacy of the Zap Theology: The kiss and make up with God syndrome. Priolo says:
Have you ever struggled to overcome a bad habit in your life? Sure you
have! We all have. Many Christians, however, when they “struggle”
with sin don’t really struggle at all. Rather, they simply confess their
sin to God, pray that He will help them change, and promptly get off their knees
expecting that God has somehow infused (“zapped”) them with a special
measure of grace which will enable them to never commit the same sin again,
without any (or very little) further effort on their part. This is what is
sometimes referred to as “the kiss and make up syndrome with God.” (a quote from Jay Adams). Progressive sanctification is, of course, an act of God, but
it is also a process which requires our cooperation. It is not enough
merely to pray that God will change us. We must also do what the Bible
says is necessary to “put off” the sin and “put on” Christ.
It’s hard to accept, and although I personally have and also know of others who’ve experienced miraculous deliverance from God in a certain area of their lives (such as with addictions), even in those instances God requires obedience on our end to further grow in faith and in Christ-likeness.
God must be speaking to me about this. Because after finishing Teach Them Diligently, at naptime today, I opened up Beth Moore’s Breaking Free
(my first read of a Beth Moore book- I know. Where have i been?! Ask my kids!), which I had to put down because I realized this book is a Bible study which I need to devote some open notebook, pen, Bible and prayer time to. But before I put it down I read this:
As we begin our study, I need to challenge you. We
will consider biblical keys to liberty, but don’t expect to find a magic
potion. Real freedom requires real work. A key part of the work
involves God’s Word. We hide God’s Word in our hearts so that we might not
sin against Him (Psalm 119:11).
I’m listening God! I’m frustrated with myself. I’m frustrated with my kids. I guess I’ve really been wanting a magic potion too! Oh forgive me Father for my laziness! You deserve my daily, moment by moment, dying to myself. My kids aren’t transformed into mature Christians who are passionately in love with Jesus in an instant and neither am I. Yet we can rest in Your finished work! Help me and the boys to show that we do rest in Your finished work by willingly obeying You no matter if nothing seems to be changing or not. I thought today Lord, that if You had had no faith, you too would have thought at the end of Your life, after all You had done, standing before Pilate, that nothing was changing, in fact, everything seemed to be getting worse. But You authored the faith You lead me in. You didn’t look at the seeming failure of Your poured out life when they nailed You to the cross, You looked to the joy set before You, even the joy of seeing me with You in glory. Oh Lord! You will complete that which You started in me and in my children. I will trust in YOU!