Taking No Offense At Jesus and The Height of Sanctification (first 10.15.12, revised and expanded 7.26.16)
Matthew 11,2-6: "Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto him, Art thou he that should come or should we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, 'Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.' "
Luke 7,23-28: "And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John. What went ye out to see in the wilderness to see? A reed reed shaken by the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings' courts. But what went ye out to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, Behold, I send MY MESSENGER BEFORE THY FACE, WHICH SHALL PREPARE THY WAY BEFORE THEE. For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he."
Mark 6,3: "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him."
1Thessalonians5,23: "And may the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
1Peter2,6-7: " 'Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.' So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not , 'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,' 8 and A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.' " ESV
Seceretely Offended And Ashamed?
Are we secretely offended or ashamed that Jesus and His word might both ask us to do something we don't want to, or never imagined?
Like serve him full time.
Or, for free.
Or, work with and for folks we don't particularly like.
Or, forgive our worst enemy. Or turn the other cheek when we'd rather lash out?
Or not gossip, for a day or two, anyway.
Taking offense at Jesus and being ashamed of his gospel is a secret shame, and it's well hidden by many of us Christians. All shame has a secret aspect that makes it catnip for the evil one. Satan loves darkness. It's where he operates, but when we bring our shame, whether at our sin, or about the gospel to the light of Jesus, and repent, we grow in sanctity.
Every Christian is meant to be sanctified, set apart, by the repeated consecrations of faith (John G. Lake) whereby God's then shares his goodness, His honor, and His Holy Ghost sanctity with us.
We will see in this sermon that as we progress in sanctity we move beyond the shame of personal sin, and devilish entanglements, all the way beyond any shame in the gospel, any offense at Jesus, and any shame about any claim he would make on our lives.
Jesus is either a rock of offense, a stumbling block, to those trapped in sin and shame, or the rock of salvation whereby by the freedom of faith we move beyond sll shame and live a sanctified life.
Oh that's the place we want to be, taking no offense at Jesus, and not ashamed at all of His gospel. Not one word of it, because we've let Him and His Spirit and His Word both wash and soften our hearts, and have their way with our minds and spirits, unto the broadness and expanse of his faith, hope and love.
This place of faith beyond shame is the place of highest sanctity, where disciples live and minister Jesus from within, minister salvation, not ourselves, under and with the power His Name.
The progression of sanctity is the same for all of us: shame and grace bring repentance. Grace brings faith decision for Jesus. Faith brings honor. Faith takes no offense in Jesus or the gospel. And no offense brings the highest sanctity, God is us.
So it's "Shame-Faith-Honor-No Offense-Sanctity." That's the pattern of salvation. That's the title of this sermon. That's where we're going with this teaching.
Insights About The Biblical Honor-Shame Contest Point To Highest Sanctity
Bruce J. Malina applies cultural anthropology, the study of humanity, so as to give insight to the bible (The New Testament World: Insights From Cultural Anthropology). He points out that the main contest between Jesus and his enemies was one of honor and shame. This contest is something primal in all humanity, across all cultures and all religions, and it reveals a lot in our faithful study of the word.
Who was and is the man of honor, the prophet from Galillee who would not stop preaching? Or, the pious crocodile Pharisees waiting to devour, and the Holier than thou Saducees plotting Jesus' shameful death? Or, the Roman lackey "King" Herod and the Roman Procurator Pilate, who kept the peace but sold out Jesus, our God.
This is a way harder question than we Christians might think.
Jesus died hanging on a tree, crucified by the Romans. For his fellow Jews to believe that Jesus he rose from the dead, without first hand knowledge of that, was no easy decision because Deuteronomy21,23 says "cursed [totally ashamed, dishonored] is anyone who hangs on a tree."
Many thought his crucifiction was a rightful condemnation for breaking the Mosaic law against picking grain on the Sabbath, but he had a right to the gleanings! (Leviticus19,9-10, www.tectonic.org/gk/jesusignorelaw.php)
Cursed is anyone who deservedly hangs on a tree. We have to read scripture in its rightful context. Jesus didn't deserve the shame of this curse. Thus Paul, at Galatians3,13, turns Deuteronomy 21,23 around and expounds from it to say that the law itself (of which DT21,23 is a part), to which we humans couldn't adhere, was cursed on Calvary, not Jesus who rose from the dead: "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us- for it is written 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree' 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham [ the blessing of faith, which predates the Mosaic law and now supersedes it] might come to the gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith."
True faith and the new law of the Spirit overcomes the curse of the law, and any shame. This is part of the pattern of sanctity.
The resurrection of Jesus, and our active faith, breaks the curse of the law of Moses on all humanity. And we also know from Numbers23,8, even a money grubbing pagan prophet like Balaam knows, "What God blesses, can't be cursed."
God blessed the curse of Calvary. God blessed Jesus' faith with His resurrection, therefore his hanging on a tree is not a curse!
What God blesses can't be cursed.
As to Christ overcoming the shame, and curse of Calvary, this is new and updated Christian revelation! The risen Jesus can't be cursed or ashamed for he was without sin. He only became sin, became a flesh offering for sin, on our behalf.
In him, by faith in Him, and His victory over death and the curse of sin, we too have been freed from the condemnation-curse and shame of sin and the law, Romans8,1.
Romans8,2 continues: "because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death."
Again, after repentance and faith in Him, the Spirit is planted in us, as seed (1Peter1,23). Then as a new law, upon baptism in the Spirit, the promise to all near and far, all Jews and all gentiles (Acts2,39). Thus, there is no need for us to be ashamed either, our sins are forgiven and no longer clinging to us.
As Paul said Phillipians3,13: "forgeting the things [the sins] that are behind." In Jesus our sins are behind us, old garbage. We leave them at the cross and don't take them back.
We remember Psalm103,12: "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." This is how we move out of the fear and box of shame and into the expanse of freedom and faith and honor and sanctity in Jesus
By His resurrection Jesus won the honor and shame contest with His enemies. He won this same contest for us too. In this sermon we'll see that He and His word don't want us to be dishonored in the end. And we won't, as long as we keep on holding on to our like precious faith in Him.
The Broad Nature Of All Honor And Shame Contests
Honor and shame doesn't just attach to the individual. They also attach, or flow from, the individual to family, from family to the barrio, from neighborhood to society. Honor and shame run the same way in churches too, from individual to the group, and back and forth from group to individuals. What we do as individuals, and as a group, how we live our faith, in honor or shame, effects everyone around us, and the group too. We know this experientially, we just don't hear it verbalized much.
Jesus and His word don't want us to be ashamed of Him. He wants us, as individuals and groups appropriate his honor by faith, and use and enjoy his honor, his covering, his mantle of victory over sin and death by our choice to live by faith, to live "in him" as Romans8,1 puts it. In him, through Him, with Him, we win the honor-shame contest of the bible.
1Peter2,7 puts this contest of the Christian group it this way: "So the honor is for you who believe, but for you who do not believe, 'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense."
Our rock of ages is our rock of honor.
But for the faithless, Jesus is a rock of shame!
Of offense, of stumbling!
But if our faith wavers, or we sell out, we too will stumble, end up ashamed, as an individual, as groups too. As David puts it at Psalm13,3-4: "Look on me and answer O Lord My God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; 4 my enemy will say, 'I have overcome him, and my foes rejoice when I fall.'
The honor of faith, with Jesus, or the dishonor of faithlessness, without Him.
Honor-Shame Contest Especially Keen In Eastern Context
This drama of honor and shame is part of all human society and any culture, but it's especially keen in near East, the lands close by to Israel. We are seeing this drama in the news of late in the far East too. We "Westerners" have a greater sense of privacy, but Eastern cultures less so. Nothing is really private there, and so everything of religion, courtship, business, and politics, all of life, plays out in the very public context of honor and shame.
For example, if a husband rejects his bride and then lies about the motive of his rejection, such as that his wife wasn't a virgin, Deuteronomy22,17 this slanderous shame upon the family could be restored, of old, by the production of the sheets from the bridal chamber by the wife's family. I'm not advocating this. We're Christians we learn from the law of Moses, but we don't profess to live it.
The point is that everything about the honor and shame contest, especially in the near Eastern biblical context, is public, and settled in public.
As I have learned pastoring, and people in the pews also learn, everything about the administration of a church is public. There is no "side deal" adminstration, everything is done for the public good of the body of Christ. So it's not done in private. The public administration of a church, one way or another, comes back to honor and shame of the group, and the individuals in it.
A wise and mature pastor keeps your private secrets, rather than manipulate you and the group with them as the cults and bad churches do. But even in good churches all non private matters sooner or later enter the public honor and shame contest of the group and individuals in the group.
Of course even in our modern Western culture there is sometimes a keen public honor and shame contest, but to a lesser degree, and with a little less intensity. At least we can rightly say "mind your own business!" and assert a sphere of legally protected privacy that makes what we know as civilization, and family possible.
But we see from Taylor Swift's attempts to disentangle herself from Kanye West, who made her famous so he says, very little in today's world is private, in Western or Eastern lands. So nosiness is about honor and shame contest.
We humans are stuck with the honor and shame dynamic, so we faithful take and make the best of it. How? We run to Jesus in faith, and learn that our honor and ultimate self worth is tied to him. His victory over sin and death, over shame, leads to our also victory of sin, death and shame.
"Honor" Killings Are Foolish
Having said this, we are often reading these days about honor killings among certain Eastern sects and in certain foreign lands. And they are now happening all around the world, in our Western countries too, when a daughter betrays the wishes of parents for an arranged marriage. This now happens right here in the good old USA. Some relative takes the honor initiative, the honor bait and the daughter ends up dead.
Just recently a social media maven from Pakistan, a Punjabi social media star, Qandeel Baloch, was killed for being a bit a bit flirty and feministic. This was done by her brother after she married someone of her choice, left home, and left her family in shame. These honor killings are totally reprehensible and irreligious. They clearly take the honor-shame contest way too far, outside the bounds of anything in God's Word.
Perceived Limited Good Or Christian Expansive Good
The bulwark behind honor and shame in the bible is the idea of limited good, the ingrained cultural perception that there is a fixed amount of all good things, especially honor (again Malina). And because honor is so precious, so limited, even in the Christian context, it is worth dying for. The church 'was built on the backs of the martyrs,' those who chose the new honor of Jesus, the new honor of faith, over the honor of the Roman Empire over the honor of cultural, national, and social norms.
Just as Jesus did.
So as Jesus rose to religious power and prominance, and got the attention and favor of the people, it robbed the Pharisees and Saducees and Pilate of some honor, which they perceived, not being faithful, as a limited good. So they sold him out, shamed him on a tree, because he was getting more honor than them.
It would be nice and quaint to think that we faithers could totally opt out of this all too human honor and shame contest, but the fact is neither Jesus or his gospel discard the idea of honor and shame, but refocus it towards our new honor in Him, an expansive and unlimited Holy Ghost sanctity-honor for all who have faith, all who have gained a testimony for the gospel and Jesus.
Think for a moment how fundamental honor and shame is in our faith walk. Born again Christians begin this salvation walk in shame. Thanks be to God we have a conscience, stil being human. This side of shame is sort of a good thing, because only a real taste of shame gives th proper motive to repent in faith, actually repent, not "play church" repent, I was saved at 13 repent, but really repent and live the faith from then on.
It's not that the grace of God isn't abundant these evil days, "where sin abounds grace abounds all the more." It's not that Jesus won't share his Holy Ghost honor and sanctity with all. He surely will, and doesn't play favorites. But we live in day when humnakind's conscience, and sense of shame, has been so seared, or masked, or explained away, by coddling wrong doers, by coddling our own consciences, and pouring holy water on anything and everything, and calling it OK, even if it's not good.
Besides that, there are millions of folks brought up in the "Christian religion," the custom of religion, who have not experienced a saving faith, and the new honor that only faith and Holy Ghost Ghost sanctity brings. This is a strange place to be. Religious folks being told they aren't really sinners, or that man can forgive them. They perhaps have never heard the gospel, and sometimes end up with dull or seared consciences. And therefore have never experienced the new Christian honor that only faith and Holy Ghost snctity brings.
Would that we would pay attention to the shame and dishonor of sin, and repent while we still have consciences, rather than get stuck in the trappings of religious customs.
But praise the Lord that true faith takes away our shame, and gives us a new and real and true honor. Yes after we repent in faith, Jesus shares His honor, and His sanctity, His Spirit. So much so we reign even now through faith, Romans 5,19.
Our life long walk of faith might begin in the shame of sin, but it ends with higest level of sanctity, not just overcoming the shame of prior sin, but also overcoming all shame in His gospel, all taking offense at Him. It ends with us living a sanctified life.
There are so many Christians who don't know the gospel or who are secretly ashamed of it, secretly offended at Jesus and how he has told us to live. It's time for all of us to wrestle with the Word, and let it change us, like God wrestled with Jacob. Let it wash us and soften our hearts, rather than live with our ignorance or a secret and hidden shame at the gospel and Jesus.
This is not a theoretical debate. Have you seen the way unrepentant people die? With seared or troubled consciences? Haven't forgiven this one, or that one, or themselves. They are full of shame, for their whole lives, yet they insist on worldly honors! Better than that is the honor of a repentant faith that has tasted and seen the goodness of the Lord's Spirit.
Get right with Jesus, and His word, and get an other worldy honor and sanctity that goes well beyond the world's honor. A faith honor that will carry you into eternal life.
Would you rather live in shame or true honor? Shame or true sanctity?
With faith or without faith.
Of course, if we're wise, we'll all choose the new honor of faith, the shared honor of the risen Jesus, our Lord and savior.
New Teachings For New Christian Honor
At His sermon on the mount Jesus takes pains to list many of his new honor teachings. Like Matthew5,5: "Blessed are the meek for thay shall inherit the earth" that is, the kingdom and Israel and Judah. The meekness of our Christian faith is our our title deed to heaven and earth. I've preached this many times. We are not just going to heaven, we're coming back to the kingdom of Zion, to rule from Jersualem with Jesus, forever.
So meekness is a new sign of Christian honor. Are you ashamed to be meek? Are you ashamed to trust His new teaching that properly and newly define your honor?
Or, Matthew5,8: "Blessed are the pure in heart they shall see God." Pharisees and Saduccees and Herod didn't have this. This is another new challenge to our honor, purity of heart, a heart often divided by idols, by anything or anyone we put ahead of God, any wordly teaching we put before Jesus and His word.
Jesus also spoke here in Matthew5 to his followers about being salt and light in the world, and not hiding our shared light under a bushel basket. And then he ups the honor-shame-faith decision by calling out the scribes and pharisees: "For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Matthew5,20.
Oh they followed the law, as best as any unredeemed person could. They had man's honor, man's sanctity but it wasn't enough for them to be honorable and holy in Jesus' eyes.
They had a certain legalistic righteousness, now passe, that afforded them some human honor in an older faith regime. But now human honor was in Him, in His new torah, His new wisdom: "put on my yoke and learn from me..."
His new honor or be dishonored in the end.
So the honor and shame and sanctity contest of biblical Christianity is our challenge today too. This contest is geared to faith in Jesus, to salvation in the end, to a new type of holiness that overcomes the old way of trying to cover our shame with an external law, or with a mask of hypocrisy. No our shame and hypocrisy is covered by our personal faith and the blood of Jesus, and the infilling of the Holy Ghost Spirit of Jesus that changes us from the inside out.
Actual Christian Sanctification By Faith Is Part Of Our New Honor
Our true faith sooner or later gives us the new honor of sanctification, of God living inside us. Now we know from the Hebrew scriptures that the tent, and then temple, and the altars and such were all consecrated sanctified (cf Leviticus8,10ff). They were all blessed, anointed with oil, set apart, actually holy. Sanctified means to be set apart for the use of God. The temple and everything in it was all sanctified, consecrated. The priests were sanctified, ordained, for the use of the cult, for the use of God (cfLeviticus8,12ff).
After the seven day ordination sanctifying, blessing the priests, Leviticus9 prophesies the future priestly sanctification of all God's Christian people. The prophesy happens this way. The chief priest Aaron is commanded by the Prophet Moses to make a sin offering for himself, the priests, and for the people(v.2 and 7). Then at v. 3 the people are commanded to present a series of animals for various sacrifices and as v. 4 says, including "a ram for a fellowship offering [a meal, eaten by God, priests and people], to sacrifice before the Lord, together with a grain offering, mixed with oil. For today the Lord will appear to you."
When the Lord appears to us, and we see and accept that appearance in faith, that's a type of consecration. Here at Lv. 9 it was not a Holy Ghost infilling consecration because they did not have that in the Hebrew scriptures, and not a priestly consecration, still external, because you had to be a certain family descent for that. But here the whole people got a glimpse of the power of Holy Ghost baptism.
Moses prophesied that the Lord would actually appear to them all that day, not just to the already sanctified priests, or the newly sanctified priests just newly ordained. This is quite a promise. Not every sacrifice comes the promise of the actual visible-experiential Spiritual appearance of the Lord for everybody! The people are extra excited. So they all stand at the entrance of the tent, can't go in because they are not priests. They are waiting for this prophecy to come true, to actually see the Lord, see him manifest.
Then Verse 22 tells us that Aaron lifted his hands toward the people at the entrance and blessed them, from a distance, prior to the sacrifices. Then they, the priests, go into the temple, Verse 23, and as Aaron and Moses are leaving the temple they again bless the people crowding at the entrance, waiting there in great faith: "and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people [not just to the sanctified priests]. 24 Fire came down from the presence of the Lord and [miraculously] consumed the burnt offering and the fat portion on the latter. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown."
In other words, they almost all got baptized in the Holy Ghost, almost all got actually sanctified, made holy like we Christians are, from the inside out. On the day of Pentecost the tongues of fire were seen over each of the people in the upper room, over the heads of their neighbors, about to enter. And then that fire went into each of them, and they were sanctfied. And became individual temples of the Holy Ghost.
This is a great honor.
We born again Christians know what it is like to shout for joy and experience this sanctifying fire, and sometimes even fall facedown overcome by the Spirit of God. This is not necessarily goofy. We don't have to fall down on the ground to get baptized in the Spirit, to get God in us, but however it happens, this somehow getting God in us is how we become temples of the Holy Ghost. This is the way we become a fully sanctified and fully honorable house-Temple, where He wants to and can abide.
This miracle happens by faith, confidently acting on the promises of God.
Moses prophesied, that all would see God, have that honor, get close to the Spirit, and they not only saw Him, they experienced Him, not as much as we Christians do in the sanctification of Holy Ghost baptism. Our second baptism fulfills Moses promise that they would all see and experience God that day. Not just see a manifestation, but one day have His Spirit inside us.
What an honor- to go from the shame of sin, to the honor and sanctity of being a temple of the Holy Ghost. Still a body, beautiful or ugly, or young or wasting away, with God in us we and our body is honorable and sanctified.
Jesus living inside us- what could be more honorable and sanctifying than that? What could take a way even the tangled memories of sin more than that?
He lives there first as the imperishable seed of faith, 1Peter1,23, the first step of being born again. Then as His Spirt in us, the second step, baptism in the Spirit, Him more fully in us, making our body a fitting dwelling, his temple (Acts2,39).
The Hebrew priests had a priestly sanctity, less than a Holy Ghost baptism sanctity, but a type of external sanctity, nonetheless, sanctity with the purpose of service to God. They had some sort of seed of sanctity, but not God in them. They had a priestly character externally imprinted on them, but not in them, on them enough to serve the physical sacifices. But now we all serve up Spiritual sacrifices.
If those Hebrew priests that voted to sell out Jesus had God in them, they wouldn't have done it.
They had an outward show of honor and sanctity, without the inward power to match up and stand behind and back up that outward piety. We Christians are not just declared righteous, decreed clean, once a year at Yom Kippur. We're made clean, washed in the Spiritual blood of Jesus, by faith, a faith that sooner or later, by ongoing acts of faith, leads to an actual interior transformation, the sanctification of Holy Ghost baptism.
Don't tell me, as many do, that your sins are "too big, or too deep, or too tangled up in satan, to be forgiven. Don't tell me that. I've heard that before. This is a type of pride and disobedience, whereby humans proclaim their particlar sins make them "special."
No dear human, your sins are common, just the sort well known to all humanity, so don't let anyone lie to you about your sins being too crimson for His blood to wash. You too, you anybody, you any fulano de tal, can be totally sanctified and honorable. By faith. If you are just willing to get over yourself.
Anybody, who comes to Jesus by true faith can be honorable and sanctified, from the inside out. You just have to get with the biblical program of repentance, profession of Jesus, adult water baptism and then baptism in the Spirit. No excuses, no favorites. Just get right with the Word and Spirit, day after day. And soon you will be honorable and sanctifed till the day you die, and for ever and ever. Amen.
Oh the Pharisees and Scribes and Hebrew priests had the Mosaic law, and that's good, but without the unashamed and honorable and full infilling sanctification of Jesus, that comes by faith, they and we will surely neglect the weightier matters of justice and mercy, and do not understand the new honor of beautitudes or turning the other cheek.
All the new teachings of Jesus now require an inward transformation, some actual and democratic faith based sanctification, sanctification for everybody, not lip service democratic like in DC, but actual democratic sanctification, actual honor, actual sanctifcation from the One who now lives within.
In the old legalistic way of human honor, honor is earned by good behavior and by doing the acts of the law [they are important too]. Or, by not getting caught at bad behavior. But now honor comes by being chosen by Jesus for salvation, and the sanctification that comes from a decision in faith for Jesus. Before we have a personal and saving faith we are, in all manner of sin, dishonor, unholiness, and lawlessness:
"And such were some of you. But you were washed [faithful adult baptism], you were sanctified [made holy, first by the imperishable seed of faith, then by Holy Ghost Baptism], you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ [baptismal formulas all over scripture] and by the Spirit of our God [which entered first as seed, then fully at baptism of Holy Ghost] ." 1Corinthians6,11
So, with the word as our guide, we say now that there are at least two key moments of sanctification, the Spiritual seed of salvation planted by first faith (1Peter1,23., but will it live or die as seeds often do?), and then the fruit of that seed, when it busts out of it's shell, cascara, its form of godliness, unto baptism in the holy Ghost and the fruit of the Holy Ghost (Acts2,39).
Sanctification Begins in a Moment, At First Faith, But Never Ends
But 1Thessalonians5,23-24 says something more about sanctification, that it goes beyond moments, that it's a progressive life long call. This life call is about faith unto faith, blessing upon blessing, glory unto glory, sanctification unto sanctification, or as the Great Apostle John G. Lake puts it, the conscious faith choice of "personal consecration" again and again:
"May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through [wholly]. May your whole spirit [huge, unlimited potential], soul [personality-mind, unlimited potential], and body [present bearer of spirit and soul] be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it."
He will do it!
He will have you and help us live from faith to faith, unto sanctification of all aspects of our lives, through and through, as we choose again and again by faith to live a life of faith. This is a a life of conscious consecration to Jesus, from the consecration of first faith, to that of adult baptism, to that of Holy Ghost baptism, to that of blessing and eating His risen body and blood at the table, to the consecration of picking up our indivdual cross, and so on.
You are getting this. Yes, you can bank on it, and trust His word to come true. Jesus increasingly sanctifies us, making us more and more fit to serve him, now and forever.
So to review sanctification has moments and milestones. I like the word milestone when it comes to faith. All faithfully lived life is about progressive milestones, building upon, and learning from, and refining all the milestones of faith that have come before.
As we have taught here before, there's three major faith or salvation milestones for all: 1) First faith. 2) Adult Water Baptism and 3) Baptism in the Holy Ghost. These are not just milestones of salvation, but milestones of sanctifcation, of consecration, milestones of our personal covenant to be a disciple of our master Jesus.
There are way more milestones of sanctification, more consecrations again and again, unto God's Spiritual blessings, all of them.
How could we rank the milestone consecrations? And what would be highest level of sanctification?
As to the highest level. Here's a hint. We remember the honor and shame contest that Jesus endured. What other bible star endured almost as much as Jesus did. What other star left us an instructive witness about the honor-shame-sanctity contest of being totally faithful?
His name is John, John the Baptist: "of those born of women, none was greater than John The Baptist." Why was he the greatest, the most sanctified?
Because he had the greatest faith and was the least ashamed of Jesus and His gospel.
We'll break that highest sanctity of John down more in a while, but now lets list, real quick, 10 main progressive steps of sanctity, looked at through the lens of moving from the shame of sin to the highest honor and sanctity, short of the kingdom:
1. Repentance, and First Faith
a. trading shame for new honor in Jesus, ashes for beauty as one of them famous singers puts it;
b. a new and actual sanctity (seed of salvation, 'born again');
2. Public Profession and Water Baptism, and initial deliverances from demons like depression, hatred, and mental strongholds like stinking thinking, and witchcraft, and star gazing. We can't be too sanctified if we're full of these types of things.
Now we are part of the right group, those who all have fellowship with Jesus, and so have some new individual and group honor.
3. Initial Generous Service of Others and the Gospel;
New Christians are way generous and like to do stuff, mayby even offer the dishes once in a while, help each other out.
4. Baptism in the Spirit (the imperishable seed doesn't die but bears fruit, ie God lives in us, more deliverances);
What an honor to be filled with God, honor both personally and in the group
5. Demonstrated Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians5,22-23: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control) after More Demonstrated Acts of Generous Faith;
6. Loving and Forgiving Everybody, Including Enemies, and not Judging Anybody.
This is really moving on up, in terms of Christian honor and sanctity;
7. Picking Up Personal Cross and Following Jesus (notice how relatively late in the sanctification process this is, though Jesus preached this as an immediate part of our walk);
a. Dont be embarresed. John the Baptist had a tought time here too.
8. Confident and Holy Ghost Gifted Service;
Faith is all about confidently acting on the promises, again and agian (Scott). More confident acts of faith bring more honor and sanctity, outdoing each other in generosity.
9. Deeper Love for Worship and Understanding of It;
a. another whole sermon, I'll skip over this milestone of sanctity for now.
10. Taking No offense At Jesus-Acceptance of the Full Counsel of God-and posssible Martyrdom.
John The Baptist came closest to wholly fulfilling this level of sanctity and honor.
The 10th and Ultimate Degree Of Sanctification Here On Earth
At Luke 7,28 Jesus gives the highest compliment a man could perhaps give to another man: "I tell you, among those born of a women, none is greater than John."
So when it comes to sanctification, John the Baptist surpassed all the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures and any of the pre-resurrection faithful.
John walked the tallest Spiritually. He was the most honorable and sanctified, walking in the highest Spiritual cotton pre-resurrection there was.
Here he is in jail for rightly preaching the gospel to the local strong man Herod. But he's still laboring under the impression that if Jesus was the messiah he would institute the kingdom by physical force, and thereby bust him out.
He is less ashamed than anybody else at Jesus and His gospel, but still not quite as sanctified as Jesus wants. Well, Jesus hasn't risen from the dead yet. No Pentecost. No baptism in the Spirit yet. And John had a good excuse. He's locked up in jail, made to feel ashamed of Jesus and His gospel.
John the baptism is great man of sanctity. All the world's shame and dishonor was heaped upon him by that shameless dishonrable brute Herod. But even at the height of his holy service, John still had some ignorance of the honorable ways and means of Jesus and His kingdom that kept him from the highest sanctity.
It was taking time for John to understand the gospel, and the demands of Jesus. It takes time for us too, and great faith not to take offense at the teachings of Jesus. That's just a fact.
If Jesus wants to be a pacifist. Well John had to deal with that. John would have eventually figured it out. But it takes time and great faith to understand that it is the Spiritual violent, not the physically violent, the radically faithful, who take the kingdom by the Spiritual force of faith, not physical force. Matthew 11,12.
The able and upbeat Christian Teacher John Bevere has written an excellent book about not taking offense at Jesus, which he calls "The Bait of Satan", YWAM, 2004.
Taking offense at Jesus is the bait of Satan. Don't take the bait! Take Jesus Word instead. Take His faith and wrestle with it. Let the Spirit work on you.
Jesus compliment of John is revealing. He tells us there that the ultimate step in our earthly sanctification, short of the kingdom of God, is not taking offense at him and His gospel, all his teachings.
All John lacked was this minor ignorance of how the kingdom is gained. This was a hard teaching for John back in his day and it's still a hard teaching today.
I'm thinking that there are a lot of hard headed people facing this hard teaching about not taking offense at Jesus and his gospel. And I'm also thinking there are whole lot of Christians who have heard enough wimpy teaching. Well what if all the wimpy teaching, all the once saved always saved, everybody gets in, wide gate teachings, leave us all without much sanctity and honor and faith.
And if we don't have faith honor and sanctity here and now, why would we so bent on thinking that we'll get at it judgement time? When I come again, Jesus asked "Will I find any faith at all?"
Five Stumbling Blocks Of Offense At Jesus
John's slight ignorance is one of the five major present day stumbling blocks (n. two out of five), five rocks of offense and secret shame in the face of the gospel.
Now if John is the greatest born among men, and he had a stumbling block to his sanctity, perhaps me and you have one or more of them.
Each of these five keep us from the level of sanctity and honor Jesus wants to give us:
1. A Troubled Conscience.
My experience is that the folks who seem to take the most offense at our Prophet Jesus, and His gospel, have some difficulty with their conscience.
Folks with troubled consciences often hate to listen to the gospel. Any gospel proclaimed loudly enough to be heard and they want to leave early. I started preaching in churches that had terrible sound systems, in churches that had mostly hard surfaces, all echoes. All mumbles and jumbles.
I kid you not, it took some folks a long while, years to want to hear the gospel word loud and clear. There was folks with troubled consciences that much preferred the mumbles and jumbles of a poor sound system than the clarity of our gospel faith.
It takes time for some us and our consciences to get fully washed by the Word. It takes time to start getting our honor from God's Spirit, from faith. Living by faith clears up our conscience, our minds, our spirits, from the echoes of a troubled conscience.
A troubled conscience isa real stumbling block of offense in the life of faith. It makes us ashamed of the gospel. But it's also a Holy Ghost invitation to get right with Jesus, and come up to a higher level of sanctity, to be really honorable, honorable in his eyes.
2. Some Sort of Ignorance.
Another stumbling block of offense at Jesus and His gospel is ignorance.
John came to his ignorance about Jesus' non militant nature innocently. He, along with most everyone in all Israel, thought Jesus was going to take up arms against Rome and drive out these conquerors and occupiers. But ignorance is ignorance, even if we think we are right when we are dead wrong. Ignorance of the Word and the Spirit effects the measure of the Holy Ghost with which our temple can be filled, and the measure of our faith and sanctity.
It threatens the honor of our faith, diminishes our sanctiry, both of which Jesus fully won on Calvary.
Sometimes the only way to overcome ignorance and stop taking offense at the real Jesus, and His real gospel is to study the word for ourselves, get baptized in the Spirit, and find out about Jesus and His Spirit for ourselves. Here's word for you who don't know anything about the word of God: "Stop putting your trust in man, even the best of them. Put your trust in God, in His word! Then your ignorance will be dispelled. And then you will be free to serve Him in faith and honor and sanctification."
This principle of a sanctified and personal faith holds especially true when we Christians are confronted with man made dogmas, pastor worship, and hierarchical domination of the laity, and three ring notebooks full of money making church policies.
The only way to fully overcome such religious ignorance is to pick up the word and read it for ourselves.
3. Christian Principles in Politics.
Another stumbling block to sanctity and a growing and honorable faith is the futile effort to keep Christian principles out of politics. Let me explain, before anyone gets too mad. The gospel speaks to all areas of both our personal and public life.
It does speak values into politics. To say it doesn't is not true.
So why do we Christians take offense when folks bring up valid Christian principles that come directly from the word of God? The issue is not whether faith values rightfully enter politics, because everything enters politics, better faith values than non faith values.
But we Christians have no right to set up a Christian state, because Jesus said "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and unto God that which is God's." Our first job is not politics and government for Jesus, but gospel service to Jesus, and proper worship in his church, where He alone rules, no Caesar, no government intrusion allowed.
The issue of not being offended at Christian values entering politics is a narrower one: whether what enters, is validly connected to Him and his Gospel, or not.
So for example, some act as if open borders is a worldwide political right, as if any person in the world can now choose his or her citizenship, regardless of national law. No, nations are and have been the biblical norm since Noah, and will be up until the kingdom of God. They are the best we have, until his kingdom come.
Nothing in biblical revelation suggests that the kingdom of God will be ushered in by any transnationalism, by breaking down national citizenships with a vague notion of 'world citizenship.' In fact, history proves that only when strong independant nations such as the USA, Israel, England, are willing to defend themselves, and others, is the world safe from transnational movements, such as various empires, and communism, fascism, nazism, and now the one world, nanny state socialism.
All such transnationalism is a vain and clumsy attempt to bring heaven to earth, a feat that humanity is clearly incapable of doing. That's what Revelation 17 and 18 says, not me, scripture says this. Heaven and earth will pass away, but not God's word.
But we Christians can all agree that the migrant in search of food and work and justice is our "neighbor." I'll joyfully agree with this, because the story of the Good Samaritan. But the good Samaritan, praise the Lord, didn't yet become a political Judahite, just because he was kind to a Jew in need.
All people of all faiths, races and creeds and nations are "neighbor" to us Christians, but all the people of the world are not citizens of any one nation. No, God ordained people groups, as nations. These individual nations bear the primary human responsibility for the civilized and humane and management of their own political affairs.
Yes, there are political refugees, genocides, war displacments, and the convulsions of terrorists worldwide, and all of these call for the humane and protective political choices of nations, and coordinated efforts among nations, and upholding international laws and treaties. And the more Christian faith values that can be brought to all this turmoil the better. But the various pressing international issues do not do away with national sovereignty, borders, and the rule of law.
Jesus didn't say "Go to the globalists and teach them everything I commanded you." He said "go to the nations and teach them everything I commanded you."
The biblical point remains, Christian values do much to inform the political realm, all across the globe, and we have no right to stumble on those values entering in when we call ourselves Christians. But our values don't displace the nation state, or permissably morph into a post nationalism, globalist regime, or let us set up ourselves as a Christian government.
Nations remain the best form and biblical norm of worldwide political organization. They will not be fully reformed or replaced until the Lord institutes the kingdom of God, and reigns from Zion.
As for the undocumented immigrant in our midst, we faithful love them. And many of them have been good Samaritans to us. They are most often looking for honest work . And we are called upon, by our laws, and biblical values, to treat them justly while here. But their citizenship, absent legal naturalization according to the laws and of the good old USA, remains extant.
To render worship to any Caesar, or nation, or transnational political entity, past, present or future, is to take offense at the gospel prohibition against uniting church and state.
So again, Christian values are welcome or should be welcome in all political systems and nations. And it is a stumbling block to our Christian honor and sanctity to try and keep them out of our national politics. But we Christians do not set up "Christian empires" or governments. That's been tried.
There's no need to stumble over Christian biblical values entering politics. They do, and that's good thing. Likewise there isn't any need to stumble again over "Christian governments" or empires in Jesus' name.
4. An Overly Keen Sense of Religious Turf, And The False Sense That Religion is a "Private" Matter.
There is no greater present source of taking offense at Jesus and His gospel than turf consciousness in the body, the church. You don't have to be a church insider to see that oft times pastors and churches will not cooperate with each other.
This is perhaps especially notable in the churches that experienced the Protestant Reformation, which at one time had to turn private, lock their doors in the face of persecution.
But nowadays we have perhaps taken Jesus' separation of church and state, as a license to run our churches as if the Christian faith was our private property, as if His body is just another private corporation.
No, we as church are heirs of Israel, and grafted into their one trunk. And there was nothing more public than faith in Israel. Likewise, the Christian church is also primarily and essentially a public thing, for the public good of His people, not just for its administrators.
The High Priests that ruled in Jesus' day were highly offended and ashamed of Him and his gospel. Why? Because they were running a religious system as if it were their own private turf, for their personal political power, prestige and wealth.
An individual corporation may own church buildings, and defends all its rights, bless all that. But our faith is in no way a private matter. John5,41-43 teaches that no one of us truly comes to any faith service in our own name. We know this. Yet Jesus knows that people will very profitably make the claim to come in their own Name, and the corporate name of their denomination:
"I do not receive glory [honor] from people. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God in you [honor-sanctity-shame-challenge]. 43 [how do i know that/] I have come in my Father's name [most honorable name], and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name [rabbi so and so from the Pharisees, or Priest so and so from the Saducees, or Pilate for Caesar in the name of Rome, or superintentant from the denomination], you will receive him."
The devil would be the most happy to hear that our faith is a private thing, about a mere man's name, a denomination's name, a religious corporation's name. All these names are sappy next to the name of Jesus! Is the devil afraid of any name but the name of Jesus?
Not at all.
But oh my when we come in the very public and powerful name of Jesus, and His gospel, with no turf but the salvation movement that is his body, Satan attempts to unleash all manner of hell. Precisely because folks who come only in His name are not ashamed of the gospel, or Him.
Paul's letters and pastorals to the churches were very public letters. They amply prove that everything we say and do about church is far from private turf (though we still enjoy the right and dignity of human privacy), because it effects the life of the public church.
It's great that the myriad of pastors and churches are zealous for their traditions and teachings, and style of worship, but the risk is that our overly keen sense of religious turf leaves the church impenetrable to outsiders, and more often than not, highly offended, not very sanctified, and weak to boot.
Ephesians4,11 reminds us that there are many offices in the church not just that of pastor-teacher. The list includes Apostles (catalysts and church planters), prophets (set proper vision and priorities), evangelists (that get the gospel out), and pastor teachers (that administer and teach the local church). And then there is all manner of service pursuant to the public office of deacon and deaconess.
This turfiness is an ongoing scandal in Church history. Satan has long used to his advantage. Only a more honest, informed and ample love for His whole word, and the various complementary offices of Christ's body, will break this stronghold of territorial offense and religious privacy that keeps God's people weak in faith, and robs the whole church of honor and sanctity.
The honor that comes from faith in Jesus is meant to be shared by all, not just the one local person in a position of power and prestige. Apostles like Paul in the early church were often considered dishonrable, not just because many of them proved to be false. But they also, along with prophets, were charged with cleaning up a local mess.
They had very little honor. But they were much needed for the group honor and sanctity of the church. Thus Paul says to the church in Corinth according to 1Corinthians4,9-13.
"For I think that God has exibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christs' sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak but you are strong [local church]. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour hour we hunger and thirst [haven't made their first dollar, their first bit of wealth], we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 we labor working with our own hands. When reviled we bless, when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered we entreat. We have become, and still are, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things."
This is Paul trying to overcome the stumbling block of turf conciousness of Corinth. No way any local church can be corrected and brought to biblical priorities without Apostles and prophets from outside it. Later at 1Corinthians12,21 and following he humbly makes the plea for mutual honor, everybody's honor in the one body of Christ. He's trying to break down the turf conciousness that prevents sanctity and growth:
"the eye [prophet, appostle] cannot say to the hand [local pastor] 'I have no need of you.' On the contrary, the parts of the body that are the weaker are indispensable [apostle, prophets]; and those parts of the body that we think less honorable, we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts [John the baptist and Paul] are treated with greater modesty, which the more presentable parts do not require [local leaders]. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it [Apostles, prophets] that there may be no division in the body [with their correction], but that those members may have the same care for one another [not hatred and jealousy, all impediments for the honor and sanctity of the group]. If one member suffers, all suffer together, if one member is honored, all rejoice together."
So here again we see that honor and shame and sanctity attach to both individuals and to groups, and that the way the group treats all it's individuals, effects the sanctity of the group. In other words, there is no excuse for not treating each other with honor in the Lord.
This is to break the honor of the group and impede sanctity of both individuals and the group.
5. A Lack of Appreciation For Free Speech Among The Faithful
We follow a savior who preached many hard teachings, and willingly died rather than stop publicly and loudly prophesying to the temple elites who kept his people from knowing God.
In our day and age, two thousand years later, such free speech still comes at a great cost around the world.
But for the free and robust speech of our gospel forbears, we wouldn't even have bibles today.
But even today gospel speech is often looked down upon and squelched, minimized. Like it's rationed, and only certain privileged people enjoy it.
And going back even further, if it wasn't for Jesus' willingness to speak freely, we would still be in the ditch of sin and death.
So, when we Christians hear a sermon, or hard teachings that rankle, we remember that Jesus died exercising free speech.
It's time for us Christians to stop getting offended at such hard preaching and prophesying. Time for us to finish our responsibility of preaching the gospel to the ends of the earth, before he comes back.
In the good old USA we have so long taken free speech for granted that when we hear a strong message, we can adopt a sort of half way hostile attitude toward free speech. "How dare preacher say that in our church." This is a stumbling block to the honor and sanctity of the whole body of Christ.
But for free speech we Christians will be soon silenced, sent under ground, easy prey for persecutors.
We must never take our free speech of granted. We should never stop preaching in every public square. We should never allow ouselves to get so comfortable in our religion that we are afraid to speak up freely, in the church and outside it.
Yes we are seeing the rise of a low grade aversion to free speech, from politics, from hearing people we don't want to hear on TV, while the persecuted and struggling church around the world longs to shout from the rooftops the glories and mercies of our new found salvation.
Those of us who take offense at free speech in the church and out of it , we must watch out, we are then ripe to take offense at Jesus and His gospel!
Any lack of respect for free speech in this day and age, the last days of the church age, when it is so precious, is a stumbling block to sanctity and to Jesus.
Conclusion: Our New Honor And Sanctity From Faith In Jesus Protects Our Precious Salvation
It's not currently fashionable in our "get it all today" world to talk about progressive sanctification (1Thessalonaians5,23).
Even in the church, we want everything, and we want it now.
But you alert faithers out there surely realize that with each milestone of sanctifcation, the Spiritual capacity of our souls and spirits and Temples is enlarged to serve and witness to Jesus.
Sanctification is not a man made work. It's not useless striving, or worksy. It is simply part of following Jesus as the way, the life, and the truth. Part of His whole gospel, not just the easy parts we like.
It's a joyful thought that the honor and sanctity of our faith leads to accepting anything he proposes, anything he asks, and anything he demands.
This obedient service and witness is the type of honor and respect and loyalty we owe him as our savior and Lord. Oh what a friend we have in Jesus. This friend gave us a shameless dignity, honor on each of us, and makes us worthy, praise His name.
All these blessings come from one faith decision at a time.
Please note that I'm not exactly arguing that all the steps of progressive sanctification are a requirement to be saved, but surely is a blessing to always keep growing in God, in His image and likeness, not ever breaking our faith covenant with Him.
This constant growth happens when we consecrate ourselves again and again, seeking not just the milstones of sanctification, but more of and Him and less of ourselves.
Like John the Bapstist, the greatest born in ordinary course.
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Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.read more...