We have talked a lot about what it means to struggle with our faith in Christ. How it is that the perceived absence of God in our lives pushes and pulls us through days, months, and even years of a wilderness-like faith. Dry, distant, unfulfilled. We looked even more closely at the idea of the dark night of the soul, a God-initiated season of life where God allows us to experience a difficult spiritual season to allow for all of our idols to be wiped away, that we might come back to the basic foundation of trust and hope in God. So, we have journeyed pretty deep down into the darkness. And still there we found Christ present with us. Never leaving, never forsaking. And it is out of this dark, cave-like place that we begin today, but not where we end. For all seasons of stagnant faith are temporary. It may not feel that way, we may feel like “darkness is our only friend” in this season, yet God dwells with us in this darkness. And not only does He sit with us, but He gives us the keys to unlock the chains. He moves in us, through us, and gives us an entirely new view of life, faith, and hope. We are going to talk about this for the next few weeks, how is it that we get out of the wilderness to the Promised Land? Keeping in mind that even the Israelites were not in the Promised Land forever; but entered into their own seasons of stagnation, idolization, and wilderness before and after a season of Promised Land rest.
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
What are all of these texts communicating to us about the role of Jesus in our faith?
The Basis of Unstagnating: Love
As we consider how it is that we can ‘unstagnate’ and return to, or enter into for the first time, a place of spiritual flourishing with Christ – we need to first return to the basic Gospel truth from which a firm, life-long faith begins.
The truth that there is nothing we can do that will separate us from the love of Jesus Christ.
No matter the ‘trouble or calamity’ no matter ‘persecution, hunger, danger, or the threat of death’.
No matter how dry, distant, lost, and upset with God we may be. No matter how much doubt we have. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.
And its this love, poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, that never changes that provides us with all we need to unstagnate.
Grace of God
We so often feel too ashamed to bring to God our hurts, our questions, our doubts, the things that we think about in the wilderness or dark night seasons.
Instead of bringing them to God, and leaning into our identity as forgiven, renewed, beloved Children of God, we turn back toward the darkness. We grasp tighter onto our shame, our doubts that we even are Christian at all.
All of the things that are leading us to and keeping us in a stagnant, distant place in our relationship with God.
But this is the exact opposite of what Christ Jesus calls us to and freely offers us.
“...You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Since we have now been justified [forgiven and freed from sin] by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
Would you ever put your life on the line for someone who has openly and continually wronged you?
What does it mean to be reconciled? Why do you think it matters for our relationship with Jesus?
“...But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal (to replace) of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life…”
What does it mean that God our Saviour saved us?
How do we experience the renewal of the Holy Spirit? Have you ever had an experience like this? What was it like?
God’s Renewal of Us
“...So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16.
As we receive and remember the grace of Jesus. The death of the Son of God for us, undeserved sinful people. We are given another gift, that of the Holy Spirit. The person of God made personal to us, the action of God working in our hearts and making us new every day.
Cool, cool, cool, but what does this actually look like in my life? How do I know that I am being made new and why won’t it just happen already?
Canons of Dordt: Article 24
“We believe that this true faith, produced in us by the hearing of God’s Word and by the work of the Holy Spirit, regenerates us and makes us new creatures, causing us to live a new life and freeing us from the slavery of sin…”
Sanctification is a churchey-word that describes the powerful work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, minds, spirits, and strength to take on the new identity given to us by the grace and sacrifice of Jesus. It is our response to God’s love in Jesus Christ. Sanctification is an acceptance of God’s grace, Jesus’ love, and the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives to make us more and more like Christ.
It is through the Holy Spirit that we journey for a lifetime toward sanctification.
You just might be in the process of sanctification if…
You are ever in awe of the fact that Jesus would die and love someone as broken as you.
You feel led to do an act of kindness for someone.
You feel compassion and empathy for those who experience pain, suffering, injustice, and any form of brokenness.
You actually find a desire to read your Bible or come before God in prayer.
You have a desire for others who are lost to hear the good news of the grace of Jesus.
You have a genuine desire to love and welcome anyone.
You are humbled by the greatness of God.
Now you might not feel any of these things, this is not exhaustive, no where near. But, what I want us to gain from this is that all who are Bible-believing, Jesus loving followers of God are on this journey of sanctification. It is an upward, downward, side-ways journey.
Sanctification is the life-long receiving of salvation that ultimately God’s work from beginning to end.
It cannot be earned or deserved -- this would take away grace!
John 3:5-6 - “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”
So HOW DO I UNSTAGNANT?
Read Romans 8:35-39
“...Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord…”
Remember the promise of undeserved love and grace given to you as a free gift from Jesus.