This blog will reference last Sunday's message, so if, for whatever reason, you didn't hear it, you might want to listen to that first... (click HERE to listen)
In this message I was addressing the dangers of imagining purity as something we possess and lose, or something we lose and regain.
This sets up a false dichotomy between the pure and the impure - making everyone either a pristine virgin or a common whore - a saint or a reprobate. And that false dichotomy establishes an unhealthy culture of shame, guilt, and fear.
We want to make this all about what we do or don't do, but it's just not about that. Purity, holiness, righteousness - these things are, by definition, unattainable. The whole purpose of the Mosaic Law was to prove that very thing. And Jesus says it's not just about what you do, but rather who you are, how you think, and where your heart is. So, consequently, purity is something none of us possess and none of us can achieve. Chasing after it or trying to preserve it is a fool's errand.
However, repentance is not. Repentance rests at the core of the gospel. It's central to the good news of Jesus.
Repentance occurs once in order to change our relationship with our Creator, and occurs again, continually, for the rest of our lives, in order to change our relationship with ourselves.
The first one - the repentance that changes our relationship with the Creator - is called "justification," and it occurs the moment we recognize that our relationship with God is broken, that Jesus made a way to repair that relationship, and that we must decide to embark on that way. It only needs to happen once, because it's a cognitive shift; it's a recognition of who you are in relation to God, and once you recognize that, you don't really need to revisit it.
We call this "justification by faith," because it springs from our faith and trust in a God who loves us and wishes to be in relationship with us.
Justification bridges the gap between fallen man and holy God by offering forgiveness and reconciliation, and it happens instantaneously, as a consequence of our initial act of repentance. Repentance means "to change direction" and "to have a change of heart," and this change imputes "righteousness" or "purity" to us. This is the only way you can get it - this is the only way you can "get right with God" - you must decide to change direction from your path to his.
The second one - the repentance that changes our relationship with ourselves - is called "sanctification," and it occurs as often as necessary, as long as we continue to follow The Way of Jesus. Justification repairs our relationship with God, but it doesn't necessarily repair US. But, when we are justified, we also receive the Helper that Jesus promised. We somehow receive the Holy Spirit, who will guide us as we walk The Way set in front of us by Jesus. Sanctification is the process by which He does that.
This doesn't make us more pure. That's already done. Instead, sanctification makes us better citizens of Jesus' kingdom. As we seek to live out Jesus' commands to love God and love our neighbors, the Helper leads, guides, and convicts, so that we can make course corrections - so that we can repent - and we can become more and more what God originally intended. We can become less and less broken, and more and more human. We can repair our broken relationship with ourselves.
And eternal life, the abundant life that Jesus promises us, springs from those repaired relationships - the relationship with our Creator and the relationship with our humanity.
So, if you haven't already, decide to follow Jesus. Then stop worrying about every little thing. You're already pure. Jesus saw to that. Now, just live.
Series Title: BLESSED
Message Title: selfless (pure in heart)
Main Passages: Mt 5:8
Some questions for reflection or group study (or please comment on them, below):
- Why do you suppose people think purity is dependent on them?
- Why do you think it can't be earned? Does it make you happy or angry?
- In your own words, what's the difference between justification & sanctification.
- Where do you see yourself? Are you justified? Sanctified? Why does it matter?