This will (again) be a reflection on something that Piper wrote in his excellent book “Taste and See”. The piece is about meditations on Hebrews 10:14:
“For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified”
John Piper was speaking about the seeming contradiction of having been perfected/sanctified and yet still having to be perfected/sanctified. It sure sounds strange to begin with, but there is great encouragement in this. Piper made the point that “you can have assurance that you stand perfected and completed in the eyes of your heavenly Father, not because you are perfect now, but precisely because you are not perfect now but are ‘being sanctified’ – ‘being made holy’.”
Never thought about it that way.
And here is another thing. First of all we should notice that in Hebr 10:14 the actions are all passive, He has perfected and then are being sanctified. Why would that be important? Isn’t it obvious?
Well, i hold that we have a problem in our daily living out our faith that relates to this: ok, most of us agree that salvation is a work of God, not of us. He works faith in us to believe, which ends in salvation (Eph 2:8). So, no problem here. But when it comes to sanctification we have a different attitude.
I think much of our depression comes from the fact that “we don’t do what we know we should be doing” (c.f. Paul). We get thrown down because we expect our lives to be ones of consistent obedience and righteousness. Now, it absolutely must be like that, but are you working it?
I often feel like I should not be named after Christ because of my actions and wrong-doings. I end up looking at myself thinking “man, but you should know better”. And I should. So I end up losing my joy and feel thrown back, because i wasn’t able to live up to what my nature wants me to live like.
Just to be clear, it is vital that we are sensitive towards our sins. It is a very bad sign when you become apathetic about it. You should seriously worry about your salvation if sin is not loathsome to you (more about that in a following post). But here is the mind change (at least for me):
I am excepting my life to be perfect, according to the reality of having been perfected by Christ. I am perfect because Christ is perfect and I am in Him (the whole of Colossians 2 – count it). When God looks at my life He does not see me but Christ. Amen to that!
But the strange encouragement from Hebrews 10:14 says that you should not look at being perfect in what you do but rather rejoice that you are not perfect yet, but in the process of growing in Christ-likeness. So it is the process of seeing your sins turning from it that is encouraging, not the fact that you are not perfect. And I can see that. I hate sin. I hate to fail in my walk. I hate to be unwise and ungodly. But I must rejoice in the fact that I can see and that I can change.
And I can change only because of the passive verbs in this passage! I am being sanctified, not sanctifying myself. Of course that does not abdicate all the imperatives in Scripture. God works in, through and with us. Obedience, and a desire to be obedient, are signs of salvation (1 John). But it remains that it is God doing even the perfecting part. I take courage in that. I am not loved and accepted only when i am perfect, but precisely because i am not, yet getting there.
“So take heart. Fix your eyes on the once-for-all, perfecting work of Christ. And set your face against all known sin.”
Gotta love it!