The Past, Present, and Future Christian - As Seen on Sunday
we confess our daily need for you, our dependence on your grace, and our broken rebellion.
But you love us anyway. You have justified us, sanctified us, and will glorify us.
We have made it halfway through Romans 8 and this seems like a good week to get a drone level view of some of the themes that Paul has been talking about. Romans 8 is the capstone of the argument that Paul has been making in his letter to the Romans. The first 8 chapters are a succinct theological explanation as to why Paul is "not ashamed of the gospel" (Romans 1:16-17, the key verse of the book of Romans).
Throughout the book of Romans, Paul explains the sinful fallen nature of people and creation, the consequences of such sin, the sovereignty of God, and the unfolding plan of redemption. There are whispers of the function of the Trinity and a superb Jewish history lesson. The book of Romans is quite possibly the deepest book in the Bible. It could take years to plumb its rich depths.
But the one aspect that intrigues us the most about the Christian life is, well, the Christian life. The story of a sinner saved by grace, adopted by God, and brought into glory is fascinating. The application of grace not only saves us from an eternity in hell but it can change the way we live every day.
Living the -ified life
In the grace of Jesus Christ, we are justified, sanctified, and will be glorified. This encompasses all of our lives. Salvation, as Paul explains to us, is not just a one-time event. It does not deal just with the past or with the future. It is something that is finished and yet is still being completed.
Francis Schaeffer puts it like this,
The -ified life is the Christian life. Our constant state of being is -ifiied. And this should be a stabilizing source of hope for us. A constant realization of our -ified state can help us better appreciate the good times and keep us moving forward even during the bad times.
But before we get into the practical application of the -ified life, let's look a little closer at our vocabulary words for the week.
Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification
These three words are the essence of the Christian's life. Let's look more closely at each.
Justification is most simply described to as being seen by God "just as if I'd never sinned." Through faith in Jesus, we are seen by God as sinless, blameless, guiltless.
J.I Packer describes Paul's view of justification as "God’s fundamental act of blessing, for it both saves from the past and secures for the future. On the one hand, it means pardon, and the end of hostility between God and ourselves (Acts 13:39; Rom. 4:6f; 5:9f). On the other hand, it means acceptance and a title to all blessings promised to the just."
Justification is an ascribed state of being. It does not mean that we have never sinned or that we will never sin. It means that because of Jesus' obedience in his death on the cross our debt of sin has been paid and our status before God is changed from guilty to redeemed.
At the moment of your faith in Jesus you are justified. It is the delineation mark of your life. Your past now holds a very different purpose. What once was a source of shackles of guilt and condemnation is now a source of joy and praise - not because of anything that we could do to free ourselves, but because of the finished work of Christ to set us free. Justification means that our past no longer has to haunt us.
Though we are seen by God as redeemed and guiltless, that doesn't mean that our sinful nature still does not have some power over us. Being born into sin, it is the only life we know. Our experiences shape our outlook and define who we are. Since we live in a fallen and sinful world, it is easy to see how we can live under the influence of our sinful nature. If culture is depravved and we bathe ourselves in the current culture, define oursleves by cultures definitions, and seek refuge in the culture's trappings, is it any wonder why sin still reigns in our mortal bodies?
But the -ified life is a life that is overcoming the power of sin and "is the process by which an entity is brought into relationship with or attains the likeness of the holy (Bower, 1996)." Being sanctified is being made holy.
But we are only made holy through our relationship with Jesus. The closer we get to Jesus, relationally speeking, the farther we will get from the tangled mess of sin. This realtional reality will change the way that we live our lives. We will choose to live in obedience to to God's call instead of the heeding the siren call of culture that leads to our death.
This is the every day working out of our salvation. It is learning how to liveas Christians. It is the very present state of being that all Christ followers are presently invovled in.
But I warn you carefully not to pit Christian vs. Christian in a battle of santcifications. We battle not against one another. My sanctifiaction is not bigger than yours. While we should encourage one another in faith we should never look down on them because we think they are not doing it right.
This sanctification process is available to us beause of Jesus death on the cross, is preformed in us by the work of the Holy Spirit, and will be completed when we meet God. Speaking of meeting God.
Glorification is the future aspect of the -ified life. We will be glorified when Christ comes for his Church. At this point sin will have no affect on the Christ followers. The sanctification process will be complete and we will see ourselves as God has seen us in Christ Jesus.
Oh what a day that will be! The sickness, death, anger, jealousy, insecurity, fear, depression, angst...all of it will be gone! We will not be slaves to it any more! Our life will be joy and it will be in joy with each other and with our Saviour.
Though we can only fathom the possibilities we wait in expecation of a million Christmas Eve's when Christ will come for his adopted family and will no longer be heirs in waiting but will have inherited our Father's glory.
And while some yearn for streets of gold and glassy seas, the much greater prize is the final destrcuctuon of sin. As the old hymn wirter foretold, "O that will be glory for me,"
How the -ified life helps us in our weakness.
Our finite minds will never be able to fully grasp the completeness of these truths. It may never fully make sense to us. This can, of course, be a source of spiritual and cognitive frustration.
But that is why it is important that we remember that as Christians we have the Holy Spirit who prays for us when we don't know how to. When we don't understand why we still sin and why the world is the way it is, the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that are too deep for words.
It should also be a great source of comfort to us that the -ified life is explained to us in terms of our past, present and future. The omnipresent God will be, is, and has always been there for us. He was there when we were wallowing in our sin, he lifted us up and walks with us day by day, and he is waiting for the day when we will meet face-to-face.
Our freedom in Jesus means that our past can condmen us, our present struggle has meaning and purpose and is working toward something grander than we can imagine, and our future is secure and joyous - not a source of anxiety.
This is something that we must keep in mind if we are to fully grasp what Paul is trying to say to us in the final section of Romans 8.
We provide a recap of the Sunday sermon to encourage you in the faith each week but it's not the same thing as being here.
Brower, K. E. (1996). Sanctification, Sanctify. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., pp. 1057–1058). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Packer, J. I. (1996). Justification. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., pp. 637–638). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.