If you have your Bibles, would you go ahead and grab them? If you don't have a Bible with you, there should be a hardback black one somewhere around you. If you don't own a Bible, that's our gift to you. Once you have those, let's go to Colossians, chapter 3. Last time we were together we talked about the nature of our relationship with God, and I said it was imperative to really understand how we relate to God through the lenses of two theological terms.
The first term was justification. This is a legal term, and it basically means we have been found innocent. We are justified. The just Judge of the universe bangs the gavel, forgives our sin, and declares us innocent through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is an imputed innocence, not an earned innocence. Do you understand that? It's not that we're actually innocent but rather that Christ imputes to us his good deeds, his total obedience, his perfection, and his holiness so that when God views us he sees the perfection of Christ and bangs the gavel and declares us innocent. That was the first component in understanding our relationship with God, but it's not the only one.
The second theological term we discussed is the term adoption, because God is not only the just Judge of the universe who bangs the gavel and declares us innocent, but he is also our heavenly Father who loves, delights in, and has joy in us being his sons and daughters. Now I know that's hard for some of us, because most of us had daddies with issues. Anyone? Does anybody's daddy have a couple of issues? If you're sitting next to your old man, get your hand down. You just look at him right now and fist bump him, all right?
If your daddy had issues, then this idea can be tough. Here's the thing. Our heavenly Father is not like our earthly fathers were. As a dad, praise God for that. He doesn't lack patience like I lack patience with my children. He doesn't get aggravated as easily as I get aggravated. (Don't judge me right now.) This is not how our heavenly Father interacts with us. He is longsuffering, slow to anger, abounding in love.
He says things to his children no earthly father would ever say to his children. "Ask me again." If I say, "Ask me again" in my house, that's a threat. If I say, "Ask me again," my kids aren't going, "Okay, let me ask you again." Literally, they'll just walk away at that point. "Ask me again," and they just move on. Our heavenly Father… I mean, literally, Jesus said, "This is what your Father is like in heaven," and he begins to lay out, "Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden."
He compares the story to a persistent widow who just keeps asking and asking the judge. The parable Jesus is saying has a wicked judge. He's going, "If a wicked judge will finally give in and listen, won't a loving Father?" He talks about how we give good gifts to our children, as sinful as we are, and if we'll do that as broken fathers, how much more will our heavenly Father do exceedingly and abundantly more than that? So we have not only been justified by a Judge but also loved by a heavenly Father.
As we walk through that passage in Romans 8, we get to the crescendo of that text that's very popular among evangelicals, where he says, "Who, then, shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies." That's in the context of us crying out, "Abba, Father," which isn't "Daddy, Father," because there wouldn't have been a context for calling a father "Daddy" in the first century. That would have been viewed as disrespectful and wicked. It was a high-honor culture. We are a low-honor culture. Ultimately, it wasn't "Daddy, Father" but "Father, Father." Like, "This is my Dad. My Dad can beat up your dad."
So within the context of that text, we are seeing that we have a heavenly Father we can point to, boast in, and feel safe with because he's the King of the universe, because he is the sovereign over all. What should I be afraid of? Have you seen my Pops? What would I possibly be afraid of? You think I'm nervous about making rent? Have you seen my Daddy? You think I'm worried about this difficult season? You think I'm at the end of my rope because of this struggle? Have you seen my Father? My Father is not ignorant to this. My Father has not abandoned me.
He's not like our earthly fathers. Our earthly fathers will let us down. Even if your earthly father was awesome, at some point in college you began to see his weaknesses. Am I a liar? They were just awesome, and then you started to think, "Huh." Our heavenly Father has no weaknesses and does not fall short. He delights in, is longsuffering with, and has a great deal of pleasure and joy in his sons and daughters.
It's imperative for us to get both of those, because it will not relationally be enough for you to understand that you're forgiven. You show me someone who loves Jesus Christ, and I'll show you someone who understands adoption. You show me someone who's excited about the things of God, and I'll show you somebody who understands the adopting love of God made possible in Jesus Christ.
So that's the nature of our relationship with God. We have been justified and declared innocent, and then we have been called sons and daughters, heirs of God and coheirs with Christ. That happened in an instant, simultaneously, at once. It wasn't like you were justified and then God put an ankle bracelet on you to watch and make sure you were cool and then, a couple of years later, he took the ankle bracelet off and went, "I'll adopt you now that I know you're not going to steal anything." No, no, no. It happens in an instant.
Now it might have taken you a while to get that instant. Like, for me, I hung out in church for about a year and a half before I actually became a believer. Even longer than a year and a half. A year and a half in regard to being dialed in, to really wondering and considering and thinking. But in a moment, I was justified and I was adopted, and in that moment, what I gained was a positional holiness.
What that means is since I have been justified and adopted, when God looks at me, he sees me as spotless and blameless in his sight. That is positional. It is because of him. It is not because of anything I have done. In fact, I am far from actually holy, but the Lord declares me holy in my position as his son, justified by the blood of the Lamb.
Now my heavenly Father and your heavenly Father wants more for us than just positional holiness. He actually wants to transform our lives. He actually wants to free us up from the bondage of sin and decay. He's not just wanting positional holiness. He's actually after a manifest holiness, a transformation of our lives, where our lives get more and more lined up with how he designed things to work and we begin to look more and more like Jesus. Positional holiness is spectacular. It's hard to get the mind around. But God isn't just after positional holiness. His plan is to transform our lives.
That leads us to our third term: sanctification. Sanctification is not like justification and adoption in that it doesn't happen in a moment. Rather, from the moment of conversion until heaven, you are being sanctified. You are being transformed from one degree of glory to the next by the Holy Spirit of God, making you more and more like Jesus Christ. Whereas justification and adoption are simply God-things (you did nothing to receive it or get it), sanctification is the Holy Spirit of God working in you and through your obedience to the pull of the Spirit to transform your life.
So where justification (being declared innocent) and adoption (being called sons and daughters) are acts of God (you did nothing to have that label put on you), sanctification requires what we'll call grace-driven effort. It means we move toward the things of the Lord. The big question, then, becomes…How? That takes us to Colossians, chapter 3. We'll pick it up in verse 1.
"If then you have been raised with Christ…" Let me stop. (I promise you we'll get through these 10 verses. Don't freak out.) Look right at me. Sanctification is only for the sons and daughters of God. If you are not a believer, you are not being sanctified. In your pursuit of self-betterment, you are simply running full speed down the wrong path. Sanctification belongs to the children of God alone. A better version of you is not sanctification. Sanctification belongs to the children of God. So how does it work?
"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." Did you hear? That's what we already covered. That's adoption and justification. "For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God."
This is the idea that justification and adoption have taken place so that now when God sees you your life is hidden with Christ in God. When God looks down on you, he sees the perfection of Jesus Christ. When God looks down on you, he sees the good deeds of Jesus Christ. When God looks down on you, he sees the blamelessness that is in Jesus Christ. You are hidden with Christ in God. Let's keep going.
Verse 4: "When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." Then the text turns. Verse 5: "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.
In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator."
What you have in this text (and there are several others we could go to) is a type of blueprint for how the Holy Spirit is going to sanctify us. That means not make us positionally holy (because we're already there) but actually transform our lives so we live manifest, visible holy lives. You see two components here. The Puritans, who were not perfect men but plumbed the depths of the Word of God in a very beautiful way…
I say they were not perfect men because it's amazing to me how the depths of theology were wide open to them but they missed some things at about the two-foot mark. How a guy can understand the Bible like these men understood the Bible and still own slaves baffles the mind of this man to this day. The Puritans would use two words to explain how sanctification works, and we're going to learn those two words. It'll be fun, like a little seminary class.
The first word is vivification. Try it. Vivification is simply a pursuit of the Lord. The first part of sanctification is the first four verses of Colossians 3. "Set your mind on things that are above where Christ is seated." Then the next verse clarifies it even more: "Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth."
So the first aspect of growing not in positional holiness but actual tangible, visible holiness (which is what God desires us to grow in) is vivification: a setting our minds on the things that are above and getting our minds off the things that are below. It is a change in mindset. What does that look like? I think Romans 12 helps us here. Romans 12:2 says, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."
So here we go. "Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed…" That's moving toward functional holiness. How do you do that? By the renewal of your mind. Now renewing your mind can't simply be memorizing verses of the Bible, because we see that Jesus rebukes certain men in the Bible who actually had memorized the Bible but had no idea how to apply it to their lives, how to sit in it, how to be marinated in it, how to make it ooze out of how they do life.
When we're talking about the renewal of our minds, maybe this will help. Last October, my family and I moved to a new house. We were in Highland Shores and we moved to Old Highland Village. All that really changed… It didn't push us any closer or any farther from the church. In fact, it's about the same equal distance. But when I leave the church and head down Highland Village Road and I come to the stop light at Highland Shores… I used to make a left to get to my house, and then I had to make a right.
There was a season of about six weeks where I was having to cognitively tell myself, "Don't make a left here. You don't live there anymore." In fact, there was a day (I'll just out myself as being a moron) I literally made it into the driveway before I was like, "Wait," and then pulled out, waved to the people who bought our house ("I didn't forget anything; I'm just a moron"), and drove to my new house.
The move changed everything about how we got to places. It changed how we got to Interstate 35. It changed how I got to my in-laws. It changed how I got to Home Group. It changed everything about where we went, but there was a season where, when it came time to go somewhere, I had to think, "How do I get there now?" The renewing of our minds is that idea of pulling up to the light and going, "I don't live there anymore; I live there." Our minds are renewed. "That's not my house; that's my house. I make the right here; I don't make the left, because that's where I live; that is not where I live." This is the renewing of our minds.
Later, the Scriptures will talk about taking every thought captive unto the Lord. We watch our minds. We watch what we're thinking. You know this. Nobody talks to you like you talk to you. You talk to you all the time. You're talking to you right now. Be quiet; I'm talking. Taking every thought captive is the idea of "I'm going to watch what I'm thinking and make sure it lines up with where I now live."
This is the renewing of our minds. This is vivification. "I want to know him, see him, meditate upon him, have him transform me." This is why the Bible is so unbelievably important for the children of God. It reminds us where our house is and it reminds us of the streets that lead to our home. It reminds us, "We don't take a left here anymore; we take a right here." It helps us take every thought captive, where we go, "That's not true; this is true."
Oh, to use your imagination when you read the Bible to grow in your knowledge of God! I'm not talking about making stuff up when you read the Bible; I'm talking about putting yourself in that moment so you can really feel in your guts who our God is, like to slow down and read the story of the woman caught in adultery but imagine yourself there. Imagine what it's like for that prostitute to be crying all over the feet of Jesus, for snot to be running down, for all of the shame and guilt she must be feeling, and to just watch Jesus pick up her head and look her in the eyes.
If you'll slow down, if you'll think, "This is my God. This is how God interacts with people who are walking in this kind of darkness. Maybe he'll have that same grace for me…" This is the kind of thing that fuels affection: knowing the Word of God, putting yourself into the Word of God, believing the Word of God. This is vivification. It's a renewing of the mind. It's a training of the mind to think rightly about the Lord, to understand where our new home is so we don't make a left to a house with no foundation that might look pretty on the outside but is crumbling on the inside. This is vivification.
The next idea (you'll actually probably be more familiar with this term) is the term mortification. So you have vivification and mortification, and they happen simultaneously. It's not, "Let me do vivification, and then I'll get to mortification." No, no, no. While you're growing in your knowledge of the Lord, renewing your mind, you are putting to death, therefore, what is sinful in you. If you've been here for this whole series, this goes back to putting the lion to death. We don't tame our sin. We don't try to make it behave. We don't teach it to do tricks. We don't try to control it. We seek to put sin to death.
The Bible clearly says in this text there are things that need to be put to death in us. While we're renewing our minds, while we're growing in our understanding of Jesus, while we're understanding who God is and what he's like, while we're growing in our understanding of the Word, we're putting things to death. The list here in Colossians is: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another.
To go back to my illustration, we are pulling up to the light, and we are feeling in our hearts a pull toward sexual immorality, a pull toward anger, a pull toward wrath, a pull toward something the Bible clearly states is sinful, and in this moment we put to death… We're not taking a left, because we don't live there anymore. We're taking the right because we live over there. There is a reminder that occurs at that light that that needs to die. "I live that way. Life is this way; death is that way. I'm choosing life." And we make the right.
Here's what I can honestly say. I don't have to talk to myself about making the left or right anymore. I don't have to talk to myself anymore about, "How do I get to my in-laws the fastest way from this new house?" There is a season where the mind will get renewed to the point where you're not battling yourself all the time or reminding yourself all the time.
Now I want to be fair. Those old battles have just turned into newer battles that in some ways seem easier and in some ways seem harder. But there comes a point where the mind is renewed to the point where, every time you're at that light, it's not this epic throw-down fight for what's right before the Lord. It's just, "What would the Lord have me do? Okay, I need to make the right." Put to death, therefore, what is inside of you.
Here's something I want you to consider. I've learned this myself over the years. There are things that are explicitly sinful the Lord wants us all to put to death in our lives, and here's something I have found helpful. What I have learned about myself over the years is there are morally neutral things that also affect me negatively. Anyone else? There are things for which there is no Bible verse that would say, "Don't do this," yet when I'm around it, in it, or participating in it, it robs me of affections. It creates drift away from the Lord. Rather than pulling me toward the Lord, it affects my confidence in the Lord.
I think you can see that idea fleshed out in Hebrews 12. Hebrews 12:1-2 says, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…" That's referring to Hebrews 11 where you find the roll call of faith. It's such a beautiful text. Some people conquer armies and some people get conquered by armies, and God calls them both faithful. That's important to know, lest we define success ignorantly.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and the perfecter of our faith…" That's justification and adoption. He is the author and perfecter of our faith. "…who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and is seated at the right hand of God."
You have two pieces here: "Let us throw off every weight and the sin that so easily entangles." Are there weights, are there encumbrances, are there things that are entangling you in your pursuit of Jesus that might be morally neutral but are affecting your joy in the Lord? I don't have a ton of time to get into my list, but there are things that definitely affect my relationship with the Lord that are not overtly sinful but, for whatever reason, because of how I'm wired, because of the bent of my heart, will create drift in me.
Sanctification is about pressing into the Lord, having our minds renewed, and being very serious about putting anything and everything to death that might either be sinful explicitly in the Scripture or anything that might even hinder my love for the Lord and my delight in the Lord. What I've noticed is that people don't tend to be that serious about sanctification. Like the responses, "There's nothing wrong with that," or "Where does it say that in the Bible?" are really silly responses.
If it's affecting you negatively in regard to your love for the Lord, passion for the Lord, and desire to follow after the Lord, then I don't know why you wouldn't want to cut that out of your life. If you're 20-something and you're going to the clubs, I can't find a verse that would go… I know you could even go, "Well, Jesus went." Okay. Jesus was seeing fools converted and healing people and casting out demons. I'm guessing you were just doing some martinis and dancing scantily dressed. Let's please not compare these two things.
If that's leading to this, if you going to the club is not fueling your passion to know the Lord, see him exalted, and see others worship him, I'm just saying, be careful there. It's probably not wise. You could put anything in this place. It can't be legalistic, because everybody's list is going to be different. Like even weird things. I find if I sleep in it affects me. Isn't that weird? If I sleep in, if I don't get up, get in the Word, slow things down, lay my life before the Lord, and work at making my heart happy in God, then I will just not be as aware. I will not be as dialed in.
I will not be looking through the lenses of who God is and what he has done for me as I interact with my children, as I seek to love my wife, as I try to lead here, as I study and prep to preach. Sleeping in affects my delight in the Lord. So I'm going to set my alarm. "Even on your day off?" Yeah, even on my day off. Now it's not as early, but I need to get up early. If the kids wake me up, I lost, so I have to beat them up in the morning. I have to get up before they do. That's mortification. We want to put it to death. Is it morally neutral? Sure. But if it's affecting you, it's a lion. Pull it out in the street and put a bullet in it.
Now there are hurdles to sanctification. As God is growing us from our positional holiness into lives that look more and more like Jesus in more glad obedience, there are some hurdles. I've noticed two in particular. The first hurdle is what I'll call a mowing over of sin. Rather than dealing with heart issues, we simply identify symptoms and try to treat the symptoms rather than getting into the disease.
I think a place we see this in the Scripture is when Jeremiah is unpacking how the false prophets had harmed Israel. Here's what he says in Jeremiah, chapter 6, verse 14: "They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, 'Peace, peace,' when there is no peace." This is a mowing over of sin. Let's look at it in two places I think will be helpful for us. I think the first place to really watch for mowing over sin rather than actually dealing with it, mowing over a symptom, treating a symptom rather than the heart issue… It manifests itself in all sorts of places. Let me show you a couple that have been most common here.
First, this most commonly reveals itself in relational strife and conflict. "Are you talking about marriage, Matt?" Uh-huh. "Coworkers and cousins?" Yep. "In my Home Group?" Absolutely. "In my neighborhood?" Yes. Listen to me. God is at work in the pain points. Don't ever despise pain points. God is working in them, most often, to reveal something about you.
What I've seen over the years is men and women who will have a brand new set of friends every two to three years. Their story line, going back as far as they can remember, is how they were betrayed and how someone didn't treat them right and how someone took advantage of them. You could literally watch a person have a complete new set of friends every two to three years, and every harm, every betrayal, everything that has gone wrong… None of it has ever made them go, "What's going on in me?" It has always been what's wrong with them and what they don't do.
Do you want to know what's actually going on in your heart? Hang out with people and be truly known. Nobody thinks they're proud until they get married. Right? I've never met a single person who thinks they're selfish. Ever. I've never met a 22-year-old single man or woman who's not like, "I'm not selfish at all." Yet you get married, and what do you find out? Selfish. Like crazy selfish. Like wicked selfish. What happened? Now you're living in the house with someone. It's not just another dirty, filthy dude who hasn't been trained yet. You start to learn.
See, the reason community becomes so important is it's in the fire of community that things about you that you hate about you will actually be revealed. If you're entitled, it'll come out as you interact honestly with people. If you're proud, it's going to come out as you interact honestly with people. Are you an angry person? Do you know what's going to pull that out of you? People. Prone to depression, prone to run and hide, prone to walk in anxiety, prone to be negative all the time? Do you know where that's going to flesh itself out? Among people.
This is why we avoid it. This is why people are really comfortable in big churches. That's not going to happen in a big church, because you can hide. You don't have to really belong. You just kind of come and hang out and be encouraged by some songs and a sermon. But that's not what the Lord has called you to. The Lord has called you to others. "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." I'm guessing there are no metalworkers in here. Maybe there are. That's a violent process. To sharpen and chisel and knock rust off of is a violent process. There are sparks and fire. There's a hammer involved.
What I've seen over the years is when conflict shows its face, what is easy in our context is just to renegotiate the terms of that relationship or cut those relationships and go find new ones without ever really digging into the heart to see what God might be doing. That's a mowing over. "I'm not going to deal with my part, with what's going on in my heart. I'm simply going to be an expert in their weaknesses and my strength, and I'm going to find friends who appreciate me."
If the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart, if what's actually wrong with us is not symptomatic but rather something going on in the heart… Is it not true that symptoms reveal the disease? If you're always in conflict, if you're always being betrayed, if you always feel underappreciated, that's a heart issue you need to check out. Don't mow over that. It's not just, "I need friends who understand me. I need a spouse who really gets me."
You need to be very, very slow to reconstruct or cut off relationships. God is at work in pain points. Most pain points stem from relationships. Don't be too quick to rearrange. I'm not saying there's not a time to rearrange and cut off. There absolutely is. But not before we do the hard work of seeing what's being revealed in our hearts through doing life with other people. Don't mow over. Let it lead you into your heart to see what's going on there.
A second place we've seen this play itself out, this hurdle in sanctification of mowing over, dealing with symptoms rather than dealing with the heart, is around the idea of addictions. The Village Church, praise God, has been a place where a lot of men and women addicted to drugs and alcohol have found some freedom and have wrestled through their addictions. In fact, there are two instances I can remember in my 11 years.
We found a guy in the Martin Building over at the HV Campus with a heroin needle in his arm. We had to dial 9-1-1 and have an ambulance come get him. Then we had a woman stumble into a membership class years ago drunk and attack Paul Matthies. If you were around when sweet Paul was here… I mean, he's just the sweetest man, maybe the sweetest human being ever, and he got attacked by a drunken lady at a membership class. That was the type of griminess that was here. God was really working in people who were seriously struggling with addictions. I love that, because the gospel meets people where they are, even in that type of dark addiction.
Ultimately, what we've found is that people… What I think you'll even see the Bible teaches is that people who are walking in addictions to drugs and alcohol, or pornography, or really any type of addiction… What they do if they just address the addiction (which is wise)… If they're not dealing with things at the heart level, if they're not looking at what drives that addiction, what they need from that addiction, they will simply replace that addiction with something else. They will not be transformed. They will simply replace addiction for addiction, and that's not freedom.
Now I'm saying this knowing full well there is a mental and physical component to addiction. So I'm not saying that ignorant of those realities, but I am saying, with full confidence, that if the heart isn't changed, managing the behavior doesn't set anybody free. It might extend your life, but that life is not a life of freedom.
This is a mowing over. "Let me deal with the situation but not necessarily deal with my heart. Let me manage the symptom but not really uproot the disease." Again, this is a training of a lion. This is trying to get the apex predator of sin and death to behave, believing we can make it do what we want it to do. This is a mowing over of the weeds, not an uprooting of heart issues, which is what the Lord is after.
Here's what makes this hurdle difficult. Mowing over feels right. In fact, my experience with people who are mowing over is they're completely unaware that's what they're doing. It just seems like it would be right. "Okay man, I have this addiction. I need to address this addiction." That feels right, doesn't it? "Hey, this relationship is difficult. This person gets on my nerves. These people don't get on my nerves. It seems wise to get out of the drama and find a group without drama. Oh no! There's more drama in this group," because wherever you are drama follows. Right?
It feels right. Yet without digging into the heart of the issue, there isn't any real freedom and there isn't any real life. That fullness of life Christ has promised us isn't experienced when you're mowing over the weeds. See, when we're talking about these hurdles, what we're talking about is a loving Father who says, "I have more for you than this." So if we're going to really flesh out this idea of positional holiness and then God making us more and more manifestly, visibly holy, think of it like this.
I have three children. My son Reid Chandler is always going to be my son. If he turns 15 years old and he goes, "Forget your way of life. Forget your God. Forget the things you value. I'm going to do my own thing…" A couple of things. That will be devastating to me, and I will pray and fast and plead with God on high to rescue him for the rest of my life.
If he does just that, he's still my son. But I want more for him than that. I want him to love his wife better than I love mine. I want him to love his kids better than I'm loving him. I want him to love the Lord more than I love the Lord right now. I want his life to be rung out for the glory of God in greater ways than my life is being rung out for the glory of God. I desire all that for him.
Now if he doesn't want any of that, that doesn't change the fact he's my son, but I'm talking and praying and laughing and playing and encouraging… "I want more for you than just to be a Chandler. I want more for you than just namesake. I want joy. I want life. I want love. I want you to understand there's a greater joy to be had than anything you could experience on earth. Reid, I want you beyond the sun, not under it." If he doesn't want any part of that, he'll still be my boy.
Positional holiness is God saying, "You're my son. You're my daughter." Sanctification and going after the heart rather than mowing over weeds is God saying, "Son, daughter, I have more for you than this. Don't do this. That pain point, that broken relationship, that pull toward sexual immorality, that anger in your heart? I'm revealing something about your heart here. Don't just piddle around with the symptom. Pay attention here to what's going on."
The second hurdle (the first one would be to mow over sin, to simply address symptoms and not get down into the heart), which is the favorite one of church folk, is just covering up. "How are you doing?"
"Things cool at home?"
"Yeah, man. Everything is great." Your house is on fire behind you. Your wife is loading your hunting rifle. She's studying on the Internet how to kill you and get away with it. "Everything cool at home?"
"Oh yeah, man. We're more in love than ever."
Covering it up is what you do on social media. I've never seen anybody take a picture of the macaroni and cheese and hamburgers they were having for dinner, like, "This is us tonight." No, you wait till you have that plate of something, right? When you're on your date… Not when you're cussing each other out in the car, but now you're like, "I'm out with Boo tonight…" You want to kind of front that everything is great when it's not.
That's what we do on social media. It's not like, "Today has been awful. I'm full of sin." It's just like, "Worshiping Jesus!" A picture of you with a verse on it, trying to get it just right. Social media is covering it up. It's, "My heart is not really there, but I want to act like it is." So here is the pull we're all going to have to watch. There is a pull in church life to adopt language and posture that are not realities in our hearts, to cover up, to go back to Genesis, to sew together fig leaves to hide our nakedness.
One of the reasons I want to continually come back to what Jesus has done for you in regard to the cross, namely outing you, is that there should be, in and among the people of God, a gladness in our weaknesses. Yet somehow we really believe what brings God glory is for us to be super strong. The redeeming work of Jesus Christ doesn't make you superhuman; it actually makes you human. It makes you all that God designed you to be, growing toward…
Listen. Can I talk with you? If we actually believe in sanctification, isn't sanctification and the idea of it a declaration that we're not there yet? So why would you ever pretend to be? Listen, one of the greatest things you could ever do is just go, "Hey, I don't understand. I don't know where I am. I'm not quite sure what I believe. I'm not reading the Bible. I don't understand it," rather than regurgitating what you heard in a sermon.
Gosh, that's just dumb. To try to pretend you're more than you are to impress people who are trying to pretend they're more than they are? Oh, take joy in weakness! David said it this way in Psalm 32:3-4: "For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me…" Did you hear me say earlier, "Don't ever despise pain points"? Do you see how much God loved David?
"I groaned all night because your hand was heavy on me." He couldn't sleep. He couldn't eat. Why? Because the Lord's hand was heavy on him. You praise God for the heavy hand of God on your life. His wrath would be to not be heavy-handed with you. His wrath would be to not let you feel the conviction that's leading you toward holiness. His wrath would be "Do whatever you want." That's his wrath. His heavy-handedness is his love for you.
"For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer." We know about that, don't we? "Selah." Selah is in that text right there. In the Hebrew, it just means, "Stop reading." Selah is like a period, exclamation mark. "Stop! Think about what we just said." That's selah. "Dwell on this. Think on this. Don't be too quick to move past this."
David said, "When I kept quiet, my bones wasted away. My vitality, my energy, my life force, my essence, my joy, my energy, dried up like in a summer heat. Selah. Consider." See, here's what you do when you refuse to be fully known. First, you cut yourself out from actually being fully known, and secondly, once you do that, you have cut yourself off from experiencing the manifest tangible grace of God.
To be honest about where we are gives us a shot at going somewhere else, but until we're able to do that, we're not going anywhere. Not only that, but I have found the love of God has been made manifest to me most often through the saints, especially in moments where I'm weak and not strong. I'll tell you how it plays out, and then I want to encourage you and we'll transition into some time of worship and Communion.
I meet with our Home Group on most Sunday nights. Not every Sunday night. In fact, I totally get those of you who are like, "It's really difficult to get to." I completely get that. But we get together, and some aspect of what we talk about is where we're doing well and where we're not doing well and where we're struggling. When I lay down, "This is an area where I want to go left and I know I should go right. This is a spot in my life where I'm feeling the pull toward what I know the Lord would not have me do…"
When I feel the pull toward what I know the Lord either explicitly or implicitly doesn't want me involved in, when I'm starting to get lazy in vivification and mortification and I lay that down, then those dudes call me two days later: "How are things going, Matt? Hey, when you were lying in your bed last night falling asleep, what were you thinking about? Where's your mindset right now? Are you taking every thought captive? Chandler, are you considering what is true? Are you lying to yourself, Matt?"
Do you know what's happening in that moment? This tangible presence of God with flesh and blood on it is going, "I haven't abandoned you. I'm here. You're being heard. I want to encourage you, Matt, toward holiness. I want to encourage you toward right living. I want to encourage you toward purity, and I'm going to speak through this vessel. I'm going to speak through Josh Patterson. I'm going to speak through Michael Bleecker. I'm going to speak through Brad Payne. I'm going to speak through Brian Miller into your life that you are loved. I am aware of what you're fighting for, and I am with you, and, by the Holy Spirit's power, I'm going to grant you the ability to be obedient."
Quit covering up. It's dumb. You're purchasing for yourself nothing and enslaving yourself to much you don't want to be a slave to. Do you struggle with sexual immorality? Confess it. Do you struggle with anger? Confess it. Do you struggle with lust? Confess it. Are you struggling with addiction? You drag darkness into the light. It's the only way it loses its power. Oh, that we might be an honest people who get over the hurdle of mowing over and covering up and rest gladly in the grace of God as he moves us toward a tangible, visible holiness. Let's pray.
Father, I thank you that not only have you called us sons and daughters, but you want so much more for us than just the name, just the title. Father, I thank you that you are transforming us, sending us both joy and sorrow, creating pain points that will reveal things in our hearts you're serious about removing. I pray, Father, for my brothers and sisters in this place who are currently mowing over sins.
They are stuck in cycles where they can't break it. They are experts in everyone else's weaknesses and not their own. They have identified a singular thing that must be overcome that's a behavior, rather than the heart leading to that behavior. God, I pray you would grant them wisdom. I pray, as David prayed, that you would search them and know them and reveal to them where there are heart issues that must be dealt with.
For my brothers and sisters who are covering up, God, I pray they would rejoice in being dressed in righteousness by you and not try to cover themselves up with fig leaves. God, we would take off and lay before you what you already know about us: our weaknesses, our frailties, our tendencies, our drifts, and our foolishness. Might confession be made and darkness give way to light, and might we rejoice in being fully known. It's through your beautiful name I pray, amen.