Sanctification and Being a Creature

I became a Calvinist when I was 25 years old. Well, actually, it is not so much that I became a Calvinist at 25, but that is when I discovered that a significant portion of Christianity loathed the sovereignty of God. I couldn’t understand it. I still don’t frankly. But that is beside the point. I went around for several years after that being a jerk for Jesus. I was the kind of guy that R. C. Sproul said that you ought to lock in a room for a few years after they roll into the reformed camp. But a significant event happened when I was 27 that changed the course of my Christian walk and shaped me into who I am today as a pastor in Jesus’ Church. My younger brother died in a car crash.

The death of my brother was sudden. He was just shy of being 25 years old. He was drinking and driving. It devastated my family, especially my mother as you can imagine. But it was hard on me too. You see our parents had divorce when I was 6 and my brother just 3. I had been in some ways fatherly to him. He had until just a few weeks before his death lived with me. I had been saved from drug and alcohol abuse myself just 5 short years before this happened. I had taught him as a teenager to live the type of life that led to his demise. I was guilt ridden and angry at myself, or so I thought. But as I spent time with the Lord and wrestled with the consequences of God’s sovereignty during this time period, I came to a new understanding of sanctification. Sanctification, or, “being formed into the image of Christ” (Romans 8:29), I came to define as, “becoming comfortable with being a creature.”

You are a creature, meaning you are part of creation, not the Creator. Yet I lived the first 22 years of my life acting as if I was the “Creator”. I thought I should be treated better by others . I judged others. I felt the world should revolve around me and that people should do as I wished. Yet, those things belong alone to the Creator, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Only He can command that type of allegiance, for He alone is worthy of that type of adoration. Becoming a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, is to repudiate our false god complex. Or as Moses wrote in the Torah, it is to confess,

[4] “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. [5] You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. [6] And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. (Deuteronomy 6:4-6 ESV)

Or as the Psalmist would write, it is to admit,

[10] For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God. (Psalm 86:10) 

Or as Paul would declare,

[5] For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, (1 Timothy 2:5)

or

[17] To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17 )

To be a Christian is to be among those that admit, I am a creature. One thing I have learned about creatures is that they are not in control. They do not choose their birth, nor their death, nor the manner of their death. For a moral creature to take the life of another moral creature is to venture onto ground reserved for God alone. It is murder. It is “transgression” for man, but it is the right of God. For God to choose the time of my death, length of my life, manner of my demise is within His prerogative as Creator to do. Suddenly I realized, I was not angry at myself for my brothers death, I was angry at God…. because of His sovereignty, the very truth I ran around telling people I loved and couldn’t understand why they didn’t. Suddenly I was sympathetic as to why they just couldn’t bring themselves to admit to it. I empathized with them. I didn’t agree with them. But I did empathize.

In the midst of that terrible time I discovered the amazing peace that comes with being and accepting myself as a creature. I had felt it to some degree after I had forgiven my father. A story I’ll save for another blog. But this time it was much more profound. I went from screaming “why” in that dark night of my soul, to accepting that my brother was gone and it was not for me to know the “why.”  I wasn’t happy with the answer I got. But, and this is a big but, I realized that if I could not allow God to fix the time of my brother’s death, how could I accept the myriad of other areas that God’s sovereignty touched. If I couldn’t accept it, I would be back at square one, living as a god here on the earth. Except, I wasn’t good, and I knew it. I’d already seen where that road ended. I had also already tasted the goodness of God and the peace that came with surrendering my life to God. There, in those days and weeks, and in other days and weeks that have occurred since then around other events that hurt me and left me bewildered, I found the secret of Gospel sanctification. When you combine seeing yourself as an incredibly loved child of God that the only begotten Son of God gave His life to save, with a profound surrender to His being God and you being a creature, in that synergy, in that space, is found Christian sanctification and in no other. All the events of your life lead you, as a believer, to the cross and to the Throne of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He will not be sovereign over them in your life, until He is sovereign over you. You will not be sanctified, formed into the image of Jesus Christ, until you learn to,

“[5] Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, [6] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. [8] And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [9] Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, [10] so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, [11] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11 ESV)

Here you see Jesus, though He was God, resigned to being a creature, carried along by the will of God, until it brought Him to the cross. This life brought Him to the exalted Throne. And this life will bring you there as well. What a Savior, “one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15

To my brother, Jon Gavin Mack 12-30-75 to 11-15-2000, and to the good God who have me 24 years and 10 months with him.

Soli Deo Gloria

 

 


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