Active awareness of the anatomy of the Gospel as key to spiritual formation in Christian education. Part 2 of 3: Sanctification

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Continuing on in this series of posts, I’d now like to discuss the necessity of an active and pervasive awareness of sanctification as vital to spiritual formation in Christian education. Last week I made an introduction and discussed justification. Without an active, ongoing, commitment to an organizational culture saturated in the reality of our justified state in Jesus Christ, there will be no foundation upon which a healthy culture of sanctification can be built, period.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Eph 2:19–22)

The simple fact of the matter is that education from a Christian perspective, as all vocation is, a sanctifying work in the life of a Christian. In fact, Christian education’s purpose is to harness that reality to full potential. Where there are erroneous or heretical views of sanctification within institutions of Christian education, there will be spiritual abuse of all kinds. If anything other than Christ’s atoning work in the lives of Christians serves as the basis by which all spiritual growth springs, there will be idolatry and false worship. Christian education presents unique opportunities and challenges in this arena of Christian living and worship.

13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Th 2:13–14)

Justification is the penalty of sin having been paid, full stop. It is a past, present and future reality that is completely finished by Christ’s death on the cross. Sanctification is the act of Christ through the Holy Spirit saving us from the power of sin day by day. Justification: I have been saved from the penalty of sin. Sanctification: I am being saved from the power of sin, it is a present reality that does not end until death or the return of Christ. Justification is static, sanctification is dynamic.

11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Co 6:11)

Christian education exists to provide an arena for administrators, teachers and students alike to grow in wisdom and stature under the loving lordship of Christ, which occurs only with an active awareness of who Christ is, what he has done and is doing. It exists to be an engine of maturity and preparation for life with a clearing view of the sanctifying work of Christ through all of life. It is vital to understand that we are not sanctified by education, but only by Christ. The primary text is the Bible as God’s word, whereby all things are viewed through it’s lens. This is the anatomy of a Christian worldview, and this is the guiding measure of a distinctively Christian spiritual formation.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Ti 3:16–17)

Leadership is perhaps the hottest furnace of sanctifying experiences in an organization. Much of the troubles rise to the top, and the burden sits uniquely on the shoulders of leaders. It is their task to engage prayerfully as a united front seeking God’s will at all times. How will our decisions, demeanor and communications play out in the reality that we and everyone in our care are currently fighting against the powers of sin as Christ seeks to make us more like himself? When I fail, am I able to own it and repent? When I succeed, am I able to remain humble? How am I setting the standard by which those in my care will learn to go through life leaning on Christ’s power for growth in grace?

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Co 11:1)

Teachers in Christian education have the task of educating minds and encouraging hearts in the reality of the ongoing battle with the power of sin in their own lives and the lives of their students. How will the daily interactions in the class serve to create a social culture where it is believed that Christ will be working to make us, not just smarter, but holier, as he uses all things to bring about spiritual maturity in our lives? How will our curriculum be built to reflect the active awareness that the Holy Spirit is working in us every day to lead us to a greater relationship with our creator because of what Christ has done for us? How will our classes reflect the reality of the penalty of our sins being paid, but our fight with the power of sin raging on to a definite end? Every subject area deals with the brokenness of the world, the question is how does Christian education uniquely form the spirituality of its students? Though it can be answered in many ways, perhaps the simplest is to say through cultivating an active awareness of the Gospel, specifically Christ’s justifying work that pays the eternal penalties of sin, and the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work that is saving us from the powers of sin day by day.

23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. (1 Th 5:23–24)

Nobody is good at sanctification, it’s really not ours to be good at. No one can boast. All we can do is realize how it works according to scripture, and worship Jesus as we experience the reality of his work in our daily life and the lives of those around us. As workers in Christian education, it is our delight and privilege to teach this to the next generation through every avenue available to us. We want students who come out knowing, I’m not perfect, only Jesus is, and he is making me more like himself everyday. We get to demonstrate that we are not perfect as well, and display Christ as students watch us grow.

I grew up believing the lie that Christians should be perfect in every way or they are not truly Christian. Many Christian youth have had this experience. As I learned the anatomy of the Gospel, the details, I was and continue to be comforted by the reality that I can rest in my justification even as I wage war against sin in my sanctification through God’s power. A few years ago when I was taking a class that focused on this in detail, I was so moved I wrote a poem I titled “An Ode to Imputation.” Imputation is the teaching that our sin is imputed or given to Jesus on the cross, and Jesus’ righteousness is imputed or given to us through faith in him. As I thought about that truth, about how I can rest in being saved from sin’s penalty, and that my daily battle with sin’s power is not hopeless, I thanked God. I want my students to thank God for those reasons too. I hope you will find it helpful as you keep a balance between the head and heart of these precious realities.

An Ode to Imputation

Did You consider my condition

Before You sent me on Your mission?

 

Before You called me from the grave,

Where devils rule and have their way,

Where I was a slave,

 

Did You         see me?

 

Was not my sin—

Dark and reprobate,

My perfectly punishable state—

Was it not in view?

 

Was it my mouth—

Where there is both cursing and praise,

Double tongue setting the world ablaze,

Blaspheming, demeaning, demonstrably damned—

Was it my mouth You saw?

 

Was it my hands—

Cursed beyond repair,

Hailing the prince of the air,

A listless, lost, and wasteful pair—

Was it my hands You saw?

 

Was it my feet—

Unready and wavering,

Stubborn and sin savoring,

Running feral on the path of ruin—

Was it my feet You saw?

 

Was it my mind—

A library of lust,

Indolent and gathering dust,

Beacon of idolatry, adultery, and pride—

Was it my mind You saw?

 

Was it my heart—

Damnable at best,

Lifeless stone inside my chest,

A fountain of fetid desires—

Was it my heart You saw?

 

Did You         see me?

 

From where came this mouth of mine,

Filled with golden tongue,

Fountain of things divine?

 

From where came these hands at my side

Calloused in service

Perfect and purified?

 

From where came these feet ,

Ready with the Gospel of peace,

In holiness replete?

 

From where came this mind anew,

A library of Love

Only satisfied in You?

 

From where came this softened heart

On which a Law is written

From which it won’t depart?

 

To whom do I owe this nature

That is not my own,

Who is my Savior?

I must conclude thus:

In His sovereign Will

He has given me His righteousness.

 

His Name must be great!

His Ways must be mysterious!

His Love must radiate!

His Wrath must be furious!

 

What does it mean,

For me to be looked upon

And it be Christ who is seen?

I am dead,

And He lives in me.

 

This is my condition

As You send me on Your mission.

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Ro 3:21–26)

 

Sanctification.
Term meaning being made holy, or purified, it is used broadly of the whole Christian experience, though most theologians prefer to use it in a restricted sense to distinguish it from related terms, such as regeneration, justification, and glorification.
Definition.
A comprehensive definition of santification by the New Hampshire Baptist Confession (1833) states: “We believe that Sanctification is the process by which, according to the will of God, we are made partakers of his holiness; that it is a progressive work; that it is begun in regeneration; and that it is carried on in the hearts of believers by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, the Sealer and Comforter, in the continual use of the appointed means—especially the Word of God, self-examination, self-denial, watchfulness, and prayer” (Article X).

Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (p. 1898). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

 

SANCTIFICATION Process of being made holy resulting in a changed lifestyle for the believer. The English word “sanctification” comes from the Latin sanctificatio, meaning the act or process of making holy, consecrated. In the Greek NT the root hag- is the basis of hagiasmos, “holiness,” “consecration,” “sanctification”; hagiosune, “holiness”; hagiotes, “holiness”; hagiazo, “to sanctify,” “consecrate,” “treat as holy,” “purify”; and hagios, “holy,” “saint.” The root idea of the Greek stem is to stand in awe of something or someone. The NT usage is greatly dependent upon the Greek translation of the OT, the Septuagint, for meaning. The hag words in the Septuagint mostly translated the Hebrew qadosh, “separate, contrasting with the profane.” Thus, God is separate; things and people dedicated to Him and to His use are separate. The moral implications of this word came into focus with the prophets and became a major emphasis in the NT.

Cranford, L. L. (2003). Sanctification. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 1443). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

 

SANCTIFICATION—involves more than a mere moral reformation of character, brought about by the power of the truth: it is the work of the Holy Spirit bringing the whole nature more and more under the influences of the new gracious principles implanted in the soul in regeneration. In other words, sanctification is the carrying on to perfection the work begun in regeneration, and it extends to the whole man (Rom. 6:13; 2 Cor. 4:6; Col. 3:10; 1 John 4:7; 1 Cor. 6:19). It is the special office of the Holy Spirit in the plan of redemption to carry on this work (1 Cor. 6:11; 2 Thess. 2:13). Faith is instrumental in securing sanctification, inasmuch as it (1) secures union to Christ (Gal. 2:20), and (2) brings the believer into living contact with the truth, whereby he is led to yield obedience “to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life and that which is to come.”

Easton, M. G. (1893). In Easton’s Bible dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers.

How I discovered Prufrock

In 2005 I did an internship in Birmingham England at a church down the road from Cadbury chocolate factory. I was there for two months working with youth and traveling a bit with my team. It was a great experience that I cherish.

One day I was in the large old home of an older man who hosted the youth pastor who served this church. My team would meet there with some regularity to enjoy some great British hospitality and to reflect on all that we were learning. One day after we had met at the end of a long day, we had some free time before we ate dinner. I went into a small room that had a lot of books in it and sat in what I remember being the only chair in the room. There was a stack of books on the floor and right on top was a selected collection of T. S. Elliot poems. I picked it up and just started reading through it. I knew a little of Elliot but not a lot. I knew his “Wasteland” was a monster poem that I had heard my English professor wrangle on about at some point. Eventually I found a poem I thought was either titled strangely, or so cleverly I was too dumb to understand it. “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” What is this? I read. I began to like it right away, but only because I enjoyed the rhythm and rhyme, not so much because I understood everything that was happening. When I got to the end, there was some sort of satisfying melancholy to it. I remember thinking that this was art that was beyond me, yet so well done I could feel it’s affects even without comprehending why.

The next year I returned to England for the same internship again. This time I met a friend from home who was visiting someone in Bristol. I took a day to go say hello and discovered this Bristolian had done their Master’s thesis on Elliot. I began to question incessantly. What does Prufrock mean? They weren’t entirely sure either, but they gave me a lot of context that I found helpful. Since then I’ve read an analysis here and there, and have come to appreciate the poem more with age. I hope to return to this topic with some commentary in the future, but I didn’t want to weigh down anyone who might happen to have their first experience with it here under the paralysis of analysis. Read it and see what you think. Also, for some magnificent reason, Anthony Hopkins has been recorded reading it so listen along as you read through and see how you walk away from the experience. Sometime later I’ll return with more thoughts.

 

LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question….
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?
. . . . . . . .
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?…

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
. . . . . . . .
And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while, 90
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;
That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.”
. . . . . . . .

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

The Golden Age of Television

Today is the first day I haven’t felt like writing since I started trying to blog everyday. But it marks the last day of the week since I started so I have to do it, I just have to. We had a sizable earthquake in Korea last week, followed by a typhoon, and last night we had a sizable aftershock and high winds. I live pretty high up in an apartment complex so I didn’t get much sleep what with all the blowing and shaking and clicking my heals chanting, “there’s no place like home.” But I survived, I’m the boy who lived, so I fight on for another day. And what better to talk about after a sleepless night pondering death than the golden age of TV?

I kept hearing the term, “Golden Age,” applied to TV over the last decade or so before I really started watching it very much. I was in a culture vacuum while in Bible college in the mid 2000’s. I saw plenty of movies, but it wasn’t a golden age of movies at that time, nor now. All the while Sopranos was wrapping up, as was The Wire, and a host of other shows that became known as the harbingers of this new golden TV era. Once in seminary, my housemates and I started borrowing DVD’s, even from the library (which feels weird to think of now), and we watched Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, Lost, and the beginning of Son’s of Anarchy while we got our masters degrees in theology and started a church in our house. It was an interesting way to get introduced to this Golden Era. We had all grown up on standard sitcom television, and this new kind of TV, the kind with regular international instant cult classics being the norm (basically the definition used by wikipedia for this era), was something we were seeing after it was well underway. Like so many things in American Evangelical subculture, we were late to the larger cultural waves in both participation and understanding. While an increase in production of this caliber was interesting to me, and to my friends, what really stuck with us was the way TV was becoming a mythology machine for a globalized America, to such an extent that it was becoming the sacred space in American culture. The news media was losing favor and has continued to do so ever since. Politics, already nobody’s favorite source of American culture creation and appropriation, has continued down the stream of actual culture production such that it’s now just the last place at the receiving end, a thermometer verifying what’s wrong and not a virus. Every sociological survey on the matter is highlighting the ongoing waning influence of churches in America, evangelical or otherwise. And movies had already started to just remake themselves over and over. There have been some good ones, but nobody is saying it’s a golden age of film.

However, TV has become one of the primary places where American culture does it’s thinking, reflecting and hypothesizing. It’s become high literature in many ways. There’s an intertextuality in the storytelling that has actually changed the way film franchises work as well. I’m not saying all of this should be the way it is, just that it appears to be the case. I hope to spend more time in the details of this in the future, but for now here’s a first glance into my reflections on the golden age of TV, and why I think it’s an important reality for thoughtful minds to consider, because more than nearly any other platform, TV has become America’s pulpit. What is it saying?