Thursday, September 3, 2015

What ought to occur after the Christian life has begun?

Hebrews 2:3 "how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard."

Yesterday we began a short two-part series on Christian salvation. We stated by answering the first major question, namely: when does Christian salvation begin and what happens in that beginning? We explored how God in the Person of the Holy Spirit begins with regeneration, with the simultaneous outworking of faith and repentance in the sinner's heart and their response in saving faith. We also saw in this all-at-once miracle of conversion - the Father's judicial decree of justification by faith and relational work of adoption. Moreover, we saw how the Holy Spirit installs the saint into Christ by Spirit-baptism, positionally transferring them from Old Adam into new Adam (1 Corinthians 12:12-13; Romans 5:11-21; 1 Corinthians 15:43-46). The Christian now has all of the Holy Spirit they're ever going to get. However, the issue that remains from regeneration onwards is: "how much of me does God the Holy Spirit have?" That is where we ended yesterday.

Today's post is going to pick-up from yesterday and answer the second main question today: What ought to occur after the Christian life has begun? 

What ought to occur after the Christian life has begun?
Broadly speaking, anything following the beginning point of regeneration/conversion (both terms are often used interchangably) is deemed sanctification. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 defines sanctification as: "Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God's purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person's life."

Regeneration is entered upon and received by grace alone through faith alone. Following such a beginning is the post-conversion life of sanctification. The key phrase in the above definition is that "sanctification is the beginning of the experience". The first major step of Christian obedience in sanctification must be believer's baptism. This tangible act replays before others what occured in our hearts in prior regeneration/conversion and the type of life we aim to live in sanctification - namely surrendered to Jesus in Lordship. 

Beyond the fact that sanctification is a doctrinal word, it is more importantly a Bible word. Notice Romans 6:19 "I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification." Other places to note this word are: Romans 6:22; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 1 Thessalonians 4:3,4,7; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 12:14). 

Regeneration is done by God. Sanctification entails both the believer and God - working together. On the one hand, our sanctification (post-conversion Christian life) is based upon the Person and work of Jesus Christ - who is our sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30). Yet, we also learn that we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Thankfully, God is the One who ultimately works out His will in us (Philippians 2:13), with the notion that God and the believer work together in a progressive manner (Galatians 2:20; Philippians 3:7-14). 

So again we ask: What ought to occur after the Christian life has begun? Broadly speaking, the answer is sanctification, growth in Christ. But now let us zero-in on what ought to be the core-teaching, reality, truth of the post-conversion Christian life. What is it? We could name several: The Lord's discipling work, anointing for service, exercising one's faith in the scriptures, time with God's people at church, celebration of the Lord's supper and of course prayer. All of these aforementioned truths ought to be a regular part of the growing Christian life. However there is one repeated experience that makes or breaks forward movement in sanctification. What is this central experience of which we speak? 

The answer to that question is answered by the filling ministry of the Spirit. The filling of the Spirit weds the Christian the increased experience and power of the risen Christ. This is not to say that I wasn't already connected to Jesus. The Spirit's initial uniting of me to Him guarantees that positional reality (see Ephesians 2:6-8). However, the Christian should throughout their Christian walk desire to have an increasing experience to match what they are learning about their position in Christ. 

The Spirit's ministry of filling the Christian stands as the central hub of post-conversion Christianity. The Spirit-filled life is the Spirit-led, Spirit-controlled life. So much more could be said on this point, however I want to bring this post to a close by considering in outline form the key text on the Spirit-filled life - Ephesians 5:1-6:18. Notice....

1. The call to be Spirit-filled in our sanctification. Ephesians 5:1-14

2. The command(s) to be Spirit-filled Ephesians 5:15-18 

3. The consequences of the Spirit-filled life. Ephesians 5:19-6:18.

These truths mark out what ought to occur after salvation as begun in regeneration/conversion. Considered all together, we can truly see how great our salvation is in both it's beginning and progression through this life! 

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