Posted in potter, sanctification

Of Pottery and Christian living, honor and beauty

When I visited Italy with a friend, we went to Deruta, a town near Perugia. It is a pottery town, where the major ‘majolica’ comes from. Somehow we ended up at the 13th oldest family run business in the world: U. Grazia Maioliche.

Ubaldo Grazia was on hand and we were personally escorted by him around the facility. When I say ‘facility’ picture a 16th century Umbrian rambling farmhouse. However the age of the place can’t hide the fact that they make high-end pottery in both traditional and cutting edge designs and the world’s top importers clamor for Grazia maiolica. Williams Sonoma, Neiman Marcus, and Tiffany import from Grazia, who is one of the better ceramics producers.

We were allowed to take photos, so here are some that I took and others are from the Grazia website.

“But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64:6)

The LORD formed Adam from the dust of the ground and His breath (Genesis 2:7). To heal the blind man, Jesus “spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud.” (John 9:6)

He is sovereign and He makes us as He wills. Can the clay speak back to the Potter? No, we are depraved, unfit for any use!

“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” (Isaiah 64:6).

Yet our Father, who is holy, makes us useful for His glory. He cleans us. Then He uses us. This is a privilege. He doesn’t need to use us, as He is perfectly self-sufficient. But He does use us and what an honor it is.

Grazia workers hand painting the vessels

We are cleaned inside when we become born-again. And as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling, (Philippians 2:12) we become brighter on the outside too. Slowly the Potter’s hand adorns us with righteousness as the Spirit’s sanctification process saturates us even more each day.

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

While here on earth, we can see the progression of a person’s sanctification, dimly. We see the transformation of their lives in their speech, and their acts, and in their countenance. They shine.

But imagine what shining countenances and trophies of grace we will see in each other when we are fully glorified! We will see Him as He is.

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)

Like the unfinished pottery above, the Potter’s hand is always at work upon us. The dish is pretty, its design is nice and the color is sweet. However, not until we get to heaven will we see the full effect of His work upon the formerly shapeless lump which He formed, and made, and decided for which use, and then adorned with good works. (1 Timothy 2:8-10).

Jesus’s life, death and resurrection; the Spirit’s ministrations, the Father’s creation of us work together to make a vessel which has been made holy and beautiful. In all eternity, I will never comprehend the Goodness of a Savior who redeems polluted lumps of clay to His very bosom, and then spends our lifetimes making us beautiful.

Someday the work will be complete, and we shall see Him, and we shall be like Him…

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:29)

We will adorn His table at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. (Matthew 22:2; Revelation 19:9). All praise the Lamb who was slain!

“Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:11-12)

Thank you, Jesus. Just…thank you.

Posted in sanctification

I don’t make resolutions

But I do resolve to push ever forward to the goal: I want 2013 to be a year in which I aim my life even more to live for the glory of God.

I cringe that some days I forget that. Sometimes I hate that I live for myself. In quiet times, I think back in reflection and I know that things I say or do besmirch His glory, and I mourn. The only reason I am on earth is to bring glory to Him, who loved me first. I love Him deeply, and the only thing that matters in life is His glory. I want to grow this year so that even more weeks, days, minutes, seconds are lived for Him in His Christ-likeness, than the weeks, days, minutes, seconds before. Lord, sanctify me in growth toward the goal.

“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 13b-14)

For more information on this goal, listen to John MacArthur’s From glory to glory.

Meanwhile, I am resolved.

Posted in glorification, sanctification

In through the door of justification, out the door of glorification. What’s in between?

We enter the door to the Kingdom over the threshold of “Justification.” Justification is-

“…to justify is to declare righteous, to make one right with God. Justification is God’s declaring those who receive Christ to be righteous, based on Christ’s righteousness being imputed to the accounts of those who receive Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Though justification as a principle is found throughout Scripture, the main passage describing justification in relation to believers is Romans 3:21-26: “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

“We are justified, declared righteous, at the moment of our salvation. Justification does not make us righteous, but rather pronounces us righteous.”

It is all about justice. The Lord declares us pardoned and free from the penalty of our sins, and therefore justified. Justice has been served- not because of anything we did, but because of Jesus taking on the penalty from God for all the world’s sins.That’s a lot of wrath, and Jesus took it.

At the moment of justification God sends the Holy Spirit to dwell inside us.

God justifies.

When we exit this life we are glorified. Glorification is “the future and final work of God upon Christians, where he transforms our mortal physical bodies to the eternal physical bodies in which we will dwell forever.  1 Cor. 15:42-44…” (source). God removes all sin from us and changes our sin-nature to a perfect nature. It is a change in body and soul. More here.

God glorifies.

In between the moment of justification (pronounced righteous and free from the penalty for sin) and glorification (the removal of sin from our soul and the creation of a new eternal body) is sanctification.

Sanctification “means to be set apart for a holy use. God has set us apart for the purpose of sanctification not impurity (1 Thess. 4:7), and being such we are called to do good works (Eph. 2:10). Sanctification follows justification. In justification our sins are completely forgiven in Christ. Sanctification is the process by which the Holy Spirit makes us more like Christ in all that we do, think, and desire. True sanctification is impossible apart from the atoning work of Christ on the cross because only after our sins are forgiven can we begin to lead a holy life.” (source)

Sanctification also refers to the practical experience of this separation unto God, being the effect of obedience to the Word of God in one’s life, and is to be pursued by the believer earnestly (1 Peter 1:15; Hebrews 12:14).”

This is the one part of the process where we have input. The Holy Spirit is in charge of the process, but we don’t lay down and let sanctification drip on us and absorb it by osmosis. The reason sanctification is messy and hard is because we participate in it.

Think of the book “Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan. Christian walked, wandered, got back on track, slept, was vigorous, was inattentive, was purposeful…it took a while to get there, and his walk wasn’t straight all the time. At times it was even circular.

Even Paul said found it difficult to walk the straight arrow of sanctification at times. “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15).

We do not do anything about our own justification. That is a declaration from God based on the atoning work of Jesus on the cross. We can’t do anything about glorification, because it is the Creator who makes us our new bodies. But sanctification… we engage with the Spirit in the process.

The bible says we are to pursue sanctification earnestly. In the practical, this means, do we pray ceaselessly? Do we walk closely with Jesus? Do we repent to Him of our sins? Do we study diligently? The more we put in, the more we are sanctified.

The Bema seat award ceremony will reveal to us the fruits of our participation in the sanctification process. (1 Cor. 3:11-15; 2 Cor. 5:9-10; Rev. 3:11-12.) From the time we walked through the door and were justified and to the end at the rapture when we’re glorified, how much of what we did for Jesus as the Spirit sanctified us was motivated by love for Him, and how much of was motivated by love for our own selves? How much did we do and how much more could we have done if we had been more vigorous for Him? Will you have moved away from the door of justification and toward the other door? Or are you still hovering at the entry, not doing much and not allowing the Spirit to set you apart for good works? All will be revealed.

The more we participate in the sanctification process by praying, walking, submitting, and working, the more we will be rewarded.

So that’s justification, sanctification and glorification. Search these things out to see if they are true! 🙂

Posted in back to basics, born again, holy spirit, regeneration, sanctification

Hello, Holy Spirit!!

I’d mentioned that I had wanted to get back to basics and do some blog entries on the foundational things. The Holy Spirit is near and dear to me, and I pray to Him daily. But He is often overlooked in the Trinity, in favor of prayers to Almighty God and to Lord Jesus. But the Holy Spirit has an important ministry we’ll take a look at in this essay. We’ll also see how He is prophesied to minister in the last of the last days and in the Tribulation.

The last days are the entire Church Age. They began at Pentecost and they will end at the Rapture. So Paul was in the last days. Martin Luther was in the last days. Charles Spurgeon was in the last days. We are in the last days. But I believe we are in the last of the last days, the moments remaining perhaps but few. However the ministry of the Holy Spirit has been with us since Genesis 1:2 where we’re told “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Don’t you visualize Him as a dove, his wings outstretched and fluttering over the waters almost hugging the world as it was being formed? He is referred to again in Genesis 1:26 when God said “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…” Therefore we can conclude the Holy Spirit is God.

He has a personality. In Genesis 1:2 and Job 33:4 we read that He creates life. He directs where to preach and where not to preach. Remember Paul’s seeking of direction for where to go next in his mission fields? The Spirit stopped him from going north, then south, and eventually directed Paul to go to Greece, blessedly bringing the Gospel from the Middle East to Europe. (Acts 8:29; Acts 10:19-20; Acts 16:6-7).

He comforts (Acts 9:31) and He teaches (John 14:26). He imparts the love of God to the saints and joy too. He maintains the church in edification (Acts 9:31). There is so much more I could write about the Spirit, books have been written, but turn to this one,

“Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.” (Proverbs 1:23). He is the Spirit of wisdom and understanding! (Isaiah 11:2). And we need Him for that, desperately. Without Him we cannot understand the Word.

“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). Without Him we cannot understand the Word.

God reveals the things God wants us to know and to have by His Spirit. That is huge. God revealed Himself to us in creation, then He revealed Himself to us in Jesus on earth as His Son, now He reveals Himself to us through His Spirit bringing understanding of the Word, which is Jesus. Kind of circular, you say? Yes, that is the Trinity. They are God but they each are a Person distinct from the other, with different ministries, which are harmonized perfectly and completely in holiness in One. If you don’t understand that, it’s OK, I don’t either! It is one of the mysteries of God that He can be three in one…

His ministry in some ways remains the same and some ways changes throughout the course of the covenants. In most cases in the Old Testament, the Spirit “came upon”, He did not indwell. John the Baptist is an exception. John the Baptist is considered an Old Testament prophet because he died before the cross. Nevertheless, John was filled with the Spirit in the womb. Another example of God filling someone with the Spirit prior to the cross is Exodus 31:1-2, filling Bezalel to know how to build the temple. But normally, the Spirit came upon them for the period necessary to fulfill the task set before them (2 Chron 24:20, Judges 3:24).

God could and did take away the Spirit. The Spirit came upon Saul as King (1 Sam 10:6) but God removed it when Saul rebelled (1 Sam 16:14). David begged God not to take away the Spirit in his rebellion with Bathsheba. (Psalm 51:11).

When Jesus told the Disciples that He was going away but He would send a Comforter, it was the Spirit He was referring to. The Spirit descended on the Apostles at Pentecost, filling them. (Acts 2). However that portion of the Spirit’s ministry changed, He now indwells us permanently. He is the deposit of guarantee of our inheritance and His seal of ownership on us. (Ephesians 1:14 and 2 Corinthians 1:22). If we confess our sins and believe by faith Jesus is Lord, He sends the Spirit into us and we can never lose Him (John 10:29). This doctrine is called “Once Saved, Always Saved” and I believe in it. If we could lose the Spirit as in OT days then there would be no guarantee, would there? If God sends the Spirit to indwell but takes it away, He breaks His own seal, doesn’t He? No, it cannot be so!

But remember the Tribulation is actually a return to the Old Testament days, finishing up those last decreed 7 years as punishment of the Jews and the world for unrighteousness (Daniel 9:24). Therefore the way I read it, the Spirit will return to the ministry of ‘coming upon’ but not indwelling. It is why they will sacrifice in the Tribulation, also.

Jack Kelley explained it this way:

“The only passage that describes the requirements of Tribulation believers is that they obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus (Rev. 14:12). It means they will have to keep the commandments as best as they can, trusting the blood of Jesus to cover them when they fall short. Old Testament standards were essentially the same, except they didn’t know the name of their Savior. Except for taking the mark of the Beast, the Bible doesn’t identify any red lines beyond which salvation would be revoked, but based on what it does say more weight will be given to maintaining their faith than anything else.”

One ministry the Spirit inhabits is the restraining ministry, and it is that one that I’ll finish with. In Genesis 6 we read that God tell us that “My spirit will not strive with man forever…” This is the chapter of the conditions leading up to the worldwide judgment of the Flood. It seems to be telling us that at a certain point, He removes the restraining ministry from man when sin has reached a certain point, or that he removes Him prior to a worldwide judgment. However, He never removes His Spirit from the earth completely because how would we be drawn to the cross, otherwise? The verse goes on to say ‘nevertheness his days are 120 years’.

We know He is the restrainer of lawlessness because Paul tells us in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8.

“And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.”

He restrains Lawlessness. The Greek word is defined “lawlessness, iniquity, disobedience, sin”. He restrains sin.

Doesn’t it seem like things are getting worse and worse in terms of morality, crime, greed, apostasy? I’m 51 years old (well, I will be in three weeks 🙂 and I look back and think on the formative images I saw on the news during the 1960s and 1970s. I saw the riots, the homosexual agenda, political upheaval, the assassination of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, the Viet Nam war. Women’s rights and abortion and Planned Parenthood and the Pill came in too. When I saw the Democratic National Convention riots, I thought the world was coming to an end, literally. It seemed to my young eyes and heart that everything was crashing down. It looks to me now from the vantage point of half a century on earth, that each new generation was exponentially worse than the previous one, and that lawlessness is compounding.

I believe America in the early to mid 1960s there was an influx of demonic activity. I believe that was allowed to happen because the Restrainer was slowly lifting His hand.

Now, this idea of the Restrainer being removed is biblical, Gen 6 and 2 Thess speaks of it. But I have no clue if He is lifting His hand fast or slow. I do not know at what rate the restraint is being removed. But my opinion is that the sudden change in society in the 1960s is evidence that He had lifted it some, because such a flood of lawlessness came in all at once. I believe that 9/11 was another indicator that He had lifted His hand some more. And in the last year, the cravenness of apostasy and false doctrine in the church is another indicator to me that His hand is going up, faster and faster now. Just look at the headlines on Drudge this Black Friday morning:

Woman pepper sprays other Black Friday shoppers ‘to gain an upper hand’…
‘Competitive shopping’ turns into chaos…
VIDEO: Mayhem over $2 waffle maker…
Woman shot, robbed in SC after midnight shopping trip to WALMART…
NC police use pepper spray to break up melee…

And these persistent commercials of the blond woman training for Black Friday are off the charts gross.

I think the worldwide judgment is very close, and one of the reasons I believe so is that the lawlessness (sin) has increased to such a degree, and that is because the Restrainer is restraining less and less until the moment in 2 Thessalonians He does not restrain at all. The Thessalonians verse says the antichrist will not be revealed until the Restrainer is removed, and that is in the middle of the Tribulation, but if things are this bad now, you can get a clue as to how much worse they will be then.

And also, this shows us how bad and destructive sin is. One little sin is the first gangrenous cell in your body desiring to contaminate every other cell near it and march up every limb you have and turn it black from putrefaction. That is how the world will be at the revealing of the antichrist, iniquity having been made full. (Dan 9:24). You can avoid being on earth, and be purified and refreshed if you appeal to Jesus. It is the Spirit that brought you here to read this, He draws one and all to the cross, and then convicts you of your sins. Read Galatians 3:1-5, and this commentary says of it, “The two are linked: the cross opens the door for the Spirit, and the experience of the Spirit is the result of faith in the message of the cross of Christ.” Kind of circular you say? That’s the Trinity, of which the Spirit is a part!

If you are an unbeliever, appeal to Jesus for your sins to be forgiven. This is repentance. You’re sorry for your wrong things you do and you understand that they are crimes against Jesus. He will forgive you if you are sincere, and then He will send the Spirit to come inside you and help you resist more sinning. This is called regeneration, literally being born again as a new creation.

You can never escape sinning but when you do (and we all do, Christians too) appeal to the Spirit for help resisting them and apologize to Jesus for them. We repent after we are saved, too. As you submit more deeply to the Holy Spirit’s ministry, though, you will find that you want to sin less and less. The Spirit is making you a new creation, in His likeness and in holiness. This is sanctification.

So when you share all this with someone and they say, “Man, you’re not crazy, you’re possessed!” you can proudly say yes, “I boast in the Spirit that is in me! Praise Jesus!”