Rom. 4:25 – He was delivered over to death for our sins, and was raised to life for our justification. So the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – for our justification…. That has to do with our sins being forgiven – with us being accounted righteous because of what Christ did – of all of our sins being wiped away. That is something that Jesus Christ does through His death and resurrection. That’s justification – the first part of the plan, right?
Next, let’s look at another one – sanctification. Romans 6, verse 19. Paul says:
Rom. 6:19 – I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever increasing wickedness, so now, offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. That’s how the NIV translates it. If you read it in the New American Standard, it says, Now present your members as slaves to righteousness resulting in sanctification. So there is a process that God puts us into once we’re justified – the playing field is leveled – and that is called the process of sanctification.
And the third one is glorification. And that we can read about in Philippians 3:21.
Philp. 3;21 – Who by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so they will be like His glorious body. That’s the end process, where we are changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. And our bodies are changed into a glorious body – spirit body.
Justification, sanctification, glorification. Real simple, right? Let’s think about how these things occur. We have them in the right order already, but I want to talk to you about the order of it.
The process starts with the sacrifice of Christ justifying us, where we can become sin free. And then at the end we’re glorified – given an immortal body like God. But in between, there is sanctification – the process by which we become more God-like – not in our bodies, but in our minds. It’s a life-long process where God causes us to become more like Him. Right? Nothing new there, right?
Well, which one of those, would you think, corresponds to Unleavened Bread? I mean, if the entire plan of God can be encompassed in those three words, and the entire plan of God is encompassed in seven festivals, which of the festivals fit with which? Well, Passover, obviously, is the part of the plan that fits with justification. That’s where Christ died, right? So that’s a no-brainer almost. Is there something that we have to do to be justified? Well, God does that. But is there anything that we have to do? You know, it seems like you’re either in one ditch or the other. You have to do it all by yourself, or God is going to do it all by Himself. This part of this process, we’re told, is something God does, but is there anything we have to do? Well, of course there is. Acts 3:19.
Acts 3:19 – Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that He may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you, even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the times comes for God to restore everything as He promised long ago to His holy prophets. So yes, it’s true that we are forgiven of our sins by Jesus Christ and no human could ever do that. But the thing that we can do to cause that to happen in our lives is to repent, or affect a change of heart, or a change of direction, or a change in desire. That’s our part.
Now let’s go to glorification. I think it is pretty obvious, since the first fall holy day is Trumpets, which pictures the return of Christ, which is when the resurrection of the dead takes place – at least the first one…. All of the fall holy days are about glorification, aren’t they? That’s what that is about – about how it is all going to take place. And how everybody else, who hasn’t had a chance to get to know Christ, is going to wind up glorified in the end. Is there anything we have to do to be glorified? Well, no. You can’t change yourself into a spirit being. But is there anything we have to do? Well, actually there is. It’s not just all God or all us. It is something that God does because of something we do and because of something He does. Let’s look at Revelation 17:14. It says:
Rev. 17:14 – They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them – the Lamb is Christ, so this is after Christ has returned – because He is the Lord of lords and King of kings. And with Him will be His called, chosen and faithful followers. So He calls us. We repent. And that puts us into the process. And so He chooses us. And then there is another modifier there – faithful. So, to get to the glorification part, we have to not only repent, but we have to continue on from the time of repentance to our deaths. We have to be faithful to God, right? Absolutely.
But what are we going to continue on doing? Well, that’s where we get to the middle part – sanctification. Sanctification is what comes in between. That’s what we have to continue on with. So Unleavened Bread and Pentecost are in between Passover and the fall holy days. And so, also, is our sanctification in between our repentance and our glorification.
But what, exactly, is sanctification? Let’s use some biblical terms here. And that’s so much what we’re used to, isn’t it? The kind of comforting thing that we get into, where we hear that good Bible preachin’, right? We like to sit there and listen to that good Bible preachin’. It feels good to have somebody quote scrioptures to us. And when they don’t, it’s fun to criticize the ministers who don’t cram their sermons full of Bible quotes, because there is not enough spiritual food here, while we sit with a Bible on our laps. Many of us would rather stay with that. It keeps us away from what we really need to do every day. But at LifeResource Ministries, we take it out of the didactic – the detached – and we apply it to our lives. Many of us would rather sit, listen, take notes and then fold the notebook shut. And twenty minutes after that notebook slammed shut, we can’t even remember what we heard. That is not sanctification. We do that and we, somehow, manage to feel good, because we did our duty. We went to church, but nothing has changed – week in, week out, month in, month out, year in, year out – nothing seems to change. That’s not the process God is talking about. And the only chance I have of stimulating the kind of change that we’re hoping for – and I think all of us are – is to do what Jesus did and tell you a story that might connect to your life.
Did you know that Jesus never did what I just did a few minutes ago? He never quoted a scripture directly. He couldn’t carry around the scrolls, could He? He only referred to them. I think, in His mind, it was up to those who listened to know what the Bible said. He was not into spoon, or bottle, feeding. He referred to things and He told stories to make His point.
So the festival of Unleavened Bread, in the New Testament, we’ve said, pictures the process of sanctification. And that’s easy for me to say, but can I prove it? He says, “Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?” So, in context, Paul is telling the Corinthians that they need to stay away from one of their members, who is sinning wilfully. And he likens what this man is doing to leaven. And he says that a little sin leavens the whole group. And then he says, in verse 7:
1 Cor. 5:7 – So get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast, as you really are. For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. So there’s the connection to justification and the Passover. There it is – right there in the New Testament – one of the most New Testament concepts you can imagine – justification. And it’s connected to Passover. And he says in verse 8:
V-8 – Therefore, let us keep the festival, not with the old yeast – the yeast of malice and wickedness – but with the bread without yeast – the bread of sincerity and truth. So there’s the connection to this festival – the Festival of Unleavened Bread – to a very New Testament scripture.
So there it is. There’s the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the New Testament. Paul told the New Testament church to keep this festival. Did he really say that? Verse 8:
V-8 – Therefore let us keep the Festival – that’s a capitalized word there – even in the NIV, right? It’s not talking about some spring festival. He’s talking about the Festival of Unleavened Bread. He told the church to keep the festival and that it was about sincerity and truth.
You might ask why so many don’t do it today? Well, you know, it was only after the apostles died that the church fathers changed it. After the witnesses that knew what Jesus said and meant were gone, then something changed. The Catholic Church changed it.
Okay, so our part in the sanctification process…. We saw that to be justified, you have to repent, and to be glorified, you have to endure. What’s our part in the sanctification process? Isn’t that something that God does? Well, yeah, of course, but, as with the other two, there is also something that we have to do, too.
Rom. 12:1 – Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy…. What does he mean, “in view of?” Well, whatever comes next is to be done, because of God’s grace. And that comes from our acceptance of Jesus Christ. …to offer your bodies as living sacrifices holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship.
That’s Romans 12:1. This is your spiritual act of worship. This is your spiritual act of worship – to offer your bodies as living sacrifices. So, yes! There is something that we’re supposed to do. If we want to be sanctified – if we want to enter that process of change – we don’t just repent, but we also offer our bodies to God as living sacrifices. That’s the kind of worship God wants from us – not just going to church and feeling like we’ve done our duty, or even going to church and being really inspired. Religion is not as much about how it makes us feel as how it affects change. He does want us to feel like we’ve done our duty. And He does want us to feel inspired, but He wants more! He wants us to long to live Godly lives – something more than hearing the word expounded, and then fogetting, conveniently, to act on it. It’s not good enough to feel good about going to church.
V-2 – Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.
So our job is to allow God to transform us – to renew our mind. But how does it happen? How does it work? How do we participate in it? Well, this presentation today – as all of them – is not a religious treatise. It’s a real world application. So we’re going to talk about real world stuff today.
Most of you know that I am, in my day job, a counselor. So what that means is, day-in and day-out, week-in and week-out, I listen to people who have come for help with terrible problems. Most of the time those people come because they are forced to come for help because they are so miserable and unhappy. And I sit there and listen to them and I think about which of the laws of God have they broken to make themselves so miserable. When somebody breaks the laws of God, misery is always the result – one way or another. Maybe it is for the person that broke it, or maybe it is for somebody else. Maybe the person who is miserable didn’t break the law, maybe somebody else did, but somewhere, when we’re miserable, that is what has happened.
I want to share my observation with you. I’ve been in the ministry since 1968. So I’ve been a minister for a year longer than Moses led Israel – forty-one years. Does that make me a big deal? No. No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t at all. But I say that because I want to make the point that, in that forty-one years, I have had thousands of people come to me, as a minister – not because I’m great, but because I was a minister – for help. And in that time I don’t remember a single person – a single person – coming for help because they wanted to learn how to be like God – they had a burning desire to be like God. I don’t remember anybody ever asking, because they wanted to know more about how to transform their mind, or because they wanted to surrender themselves as living sacrifices…. I don’t ever remember anybody coming to me and saying, “I’m just so thankful that Jesus Christ forgave my sins that I want to know more about how to live godly.” Never had that happen in forty-one years – not a single time.
Now Paul said that being godly was our reasonable act of worship. And we all ought to long to be like God and to let our bodies and minds become given over to God to do His will. And I think most of us do want that. Paul said that what Jesus did for us ought to cause us to give our whole being over to Him to be an instrument in God’s hands for righteousness. But I don’t see people coming and talking to the ministry so much about that. But I do see God changing people in another way. I’ve had thousands of people come for counsel for the same reason that people walk into my counseling office. They came because they were miserable. They were fearful. They were sad. They were angry. They were guilty. They were ill. They were perverted. They were addicted. They were divorcing. They were abandoned or abandoning. They were sad. Just like the people that come in my counseling office everyday. They come because they’re miserable.
So what does that say about the process of sanctification that God has put in motion for us? Well, I think what it means is, that God is sanctifying us by letting us run into the effects of the law, too. And that when we’re miserable, we know we need help. And then by struggling, we come into alignment with the law of God. And in that, we become more godly. Jesus obeyed the law perfectly, right?
With my clients, sometimes the disobedience was his or hers, and sometimes the disobedience was on the part of somebody else. But one thing for certain, no matter who was at fault, the one who is miserable has to do something to end the misery. And I know this is going to upset some folks, but you’ll just have to be upset. The only difference I see in the people of the Church of God and the people that walk into my office is that the Church of God people know that they’re miserable because somebody broke God’s law. And the other folks don’t know it. The misery is the same. The violations are the same. And the solutions are the same, too.
1 Peter 5, verse 8 and 9. Read this with me.
1 Pt. 5:8-9 – Be sober. Be vigilant. This is the scripture about what causes the problems. Be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. The devil does not just target us. Nor does he just target them. We’re all targeted. Everybody is targeted. So he’s really done a number on people. That all gets passed on – as family history, insensitivity, sin, mistreatment – all of that. Psychologists used to believe that all that was just passed on environmentally, but we now know that some of it is transferred from one generation to the next by the actual gene transcription.
So what’s my point here? Well, I’m saying that the way God sanctifies us is through the pain of violations of the law of God, and that that pain drives us toward obedience and, consequently, toward God.
I want to quote another scripture here to you, because I’m approaching a point here that, if you’re really interested in being godly, then you really need to pay attention to this. If you’re not, don’t worry about it.
Lk. 16:8 – The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. Do you remember the parable? He said: The people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of light. Now, Jesus is talking about a guy here who is really a scoundrel. He’s a thief. He was supposed to be an honest manager, but he tried to cheat his boss. He was really hard on the help. But, after having been caught in his dishonesty, he was smart enough to take action that would make his penalty less. He immediately started doing damage control. And Jesus said that people who are not converted are often wiser about that than converted people are. That’s what He says, isn’t it? The people of the world are more shrewd in dealing with their own than are the people of light.
Why do you think that might be true? Why would there be a liability to being converted – a child of light? Well, I’m absolutely sure that I don’t know all the reasons He said that, but I think, from my experience, I do know one reason. I think converted people are more likely to pass off the responsibility of change to God. “Let’s pray about it.” Well, God wants us to pray about it, but if that’s all we do…if we think that’s all we have to do, then I don’t think God is going to do very much. It’s roughly akin to saying, “Let’s ask God to do the work so we don’t have to do anything.” Or, “Let’s keep doing the same thing and hope for different results.” We don’t understand that the trial is not come upon us so that God can break all of His own laws and rescue us from our own foolishness, but because He wants us to learn to obey His law. So why would He rescue us from all that and just somehow miraculously let us continue doing what caused the problem without making any changes? We should pray about it, but He wants us to work on it, too. Most of us say, “I prayed about it, but until the problem became so pronounced that I’m utterly miserable, I wasn’t willing to do anything.” It’s kind of a sad thing, isn’t it?
I’m going to tell you some stories about some unconverted people today. I guess I really shouldn’t say, because I don’t know for sure. God’s the one that gets to decide who is converted and who isn’t, doesn’t He?
A particularly sad case some time ago: A fifteen-year-old girl couldn’t feel any emotions except for fits of rage. Ever met anybody like that? Ever felt that way yourself? She was kind of totally dead-pan except for when she was on a tantrum. And this fifteen-year-old girl realized she was making life miserable for the people she loved. And she knew that, if she kept doing that, pretty soon she would be miserable, too. So she was desperate for relief. So here’s how it presented:
She told me, at one point in the counseling, “I was assaulted by three boys when I was eleven. And I think that it has something to do with the rage, but I don’t know how.” I was just thinking about her. She was so desperate and so courageous that she was willing to sit down and tell a strange man that she doesn’t even know – not that I’m strange now, but that I am a stranger to her, in a way – and tell him everything that happened to her and to risk being judged in an effort, as she put it, to have a normal life. That’s what she was willing to do to get past her problem. She said, “Is it possible for me to have a normal life? Can we actually accomplish that?” And I said, “Well, I’ll show you.” I said, “When you were assaulted, what was the worst part of that for you?” She said, “They laughed at me. They were laughing at me.” And I said, “How did that make you feel?” “Well, it was humiliating and it made me really angry.” “And where did you feel that anger in your body?” She said, “Right here. Right in the center of my chest. Right in the core.” And I said, “Well, I want you to think back to the earliest time you can remember feeling that same way.” And she came up with this amazing connection. She said, “I can remember my mother’s boyfriend making me hold two eggs out at arms’ length and telling me that if I dropped an egg or put down my arms, he was going to beat me.” “How old were you?” “I was less than two years old.” So she was traumatized at a very early age. She said, “My mother stood right there and didn’t do anything about it. She didn’t protect me.” And I said, “And how did you feel?” “Well, mostly afraid. I remember that it was like it wasn’t fair and why didn’t she help me?” I said, “Is that how you feel in the present day when you go into rages?” And she said, “Exactly the same. So why does that happen to me?” she said. “Well, what would you do today if somebody told you that you had to hold those eggs now?” “Well, I’d tell them, ‘No way!’” That isn’t really what she said, but I’m…this is church. So I said, “Well, you wouldn’t let that happen to you now.” She said, “Absolutely not!” I said, “You’d protect yourself, wouldn’t you?” She said, “I would.” “But, as a little girl, you couldn’t do anything about that. You didn’t have any way to protect yourself. And you didn’t have any way to process that event, so all the memories, the feelings, the body sensations remain as a painful memory network locked in your mind. And anytime something in the present seems unfair or dangerous to you, those feelings are triggered and you go into a rage. Remember, the brain likes to go with what happens earliest. So when it’s trying to figure out what is going to happen next, it starts searching the memory banks, and it starts with the earliest stuff first, and it finds that and boom! You start protecting yourself – because you can do that now and you couldn’t then.” And she asked me this question – she’s a textbook client – we all love to have these kind of clients come – “What can I do about that?” And I said, “Well, by yourself, you can’t do much, but, together, you and I can work as a team to activate your mind’s healing capability and remove that old pain.”
Did you know that? Did you know that God has built into the human brain a healing mechanism? Just like your finger will heal from a cut, so the mind can heal from traumatic events. But with the mind, we have to take some steps. It doesn’t happen without effort.
So I asked her to think about the egg incident, because that was the earliest one. We know that stuff like that is what causes the problem. And I began using a process called EMDR to help her brain process that memory. And in about twenty minutes she’d gone through every associated, painful memory and then things began to turn positive. When that happened, I asked her to go back to the egg incident. And she said, “Okay.” And she sat there and this kind of confused look came over her face. Then she giggled. She is still very much a child. And she said, “I can barely find it. It’s all blurry – like I can’t really see it. Is it supposed to be like that?” And I said, “Exactly like that.” And she gave me this beaming smile. She was so happy that that was no longer part of her life experience. And I said, “We’re going to do that with all of those painful, childhood memories. Every one that we can find, we’re going to do it just like that. And when we’re done, you’re going to find yourself a lot less reactive to things. Things that make you angry now aren’t going to make you angry, because there is not going to be any anger there to transfer over – to trigger you. You’re responses aren’t going to be overboard any longer, because that old pain that causes overreaction isn’t going to be painful. You won’t tend to go off on people.”
Now, this girl is not the least bit religious. And let’s just ask the rhetorical question. Let’s ask, “What if she lives her whole life without accepting Christ? When she comes up in the resurrection, will she be more or less godly having overcome all that tantruming at fifteen-years-old?” More. More. More. So, do you have to have the Holy Spirit to overcome? No. That isn’t what the Holy Spirit does. What does the Holy Spirit do? Well, I already mentioned the main thing that is different between the people that walk into my office and us is that we know that we’re in a process and the problems come from disobeying God. She can overcome the problem, but she doesn’t know that.
Galatians 5, verse 19. Read this with me.
Gal. 5:19 – The acts of the sinful nature are obvious:sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage – right? – selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Well, this fifteen-year-old is going to get over fits of rage. So that’s one less thing she’ll have to get over later. So even though she doesn’t know it, her therapy is all about getting in line with the laws of God. We’re going back to what causes the fits of rage. There are no modifiers here with the apostle Paul. It doesn’t say, “You shouldn’t have selfish ambition unless you were an insecure child.” It doesn’t say, “You shouldn’t have fits of rage unless you were an abused victim.” It doesn’t work like that. There are no modifiers. It doesn’t matter that she rages because she was once a victim. God wants us to get over raging no matter what the reason is.
It’s really hard when you have a teenager or a little child who has been really traumatized and mistreated. It’s so easy to get involved in what we call the drama of the trauma. But that doesn’t help. That really doesn’t help. In fact, sometimes, it just enables it. What really helps is for people to realize that there are always reasons for bad behavior, but there are never any good excuses. That child knew that coming in. She knew that she had a problem and, if she didn’t fix it, she was going to be causing a lot of problems for herself down the road – and for people that she cared about. It doesn’t help her to say, “Oh, you poor thing” – even though I felt that with every fiber of my being. But this girl, at fifteen, has stepped up and said, “I had a bad life. I want to get over it. I don’t want to make a bad life for my children, my husband, my friends.” She is involved in the process of sanctification. She just doesn’t know it.
Some of you from the “old school,” I suppose, might think that I’m being heretical, but what is the reason that we’ve always given as to why God doesn’t stop all the problems going on right now? Well, because we’re learning that our way doesn’t work. Right? That’s why. So isn’t God working with us – everybody – right now to help us to understand something about Him and about us? For us, what does it mean? Well, I think that we need to wake up and realize that we need to stop kidding ourselves that we can slide by and that we can get God to do everything for us. We have to work to change. We can go on ignoring our own anger and our own fear and all that sort of thing, but, if we participate in the process of sanctification, we need to step up and take some action on our own behalf. That’s what God wants.
I have another young client. For months she’s been telling me how much she hates her dad. She’s complains about him a lot. “He’s so dismissing. He’s so uninvolved in my life. He’s so disrespectful to me. He never pays any attention to me. He never hugs me. He never talks to me.” You’ve heard the stories. One day she told me about a time when she saw her dad weep after his mother died. Because I had listened to her talk about her dad for seven months, because I had passed her the tissue box while she cried about it, because I encouraged her, because I told her how brave she was for doing this work, because I patted her on the back every week, because I listened to her, and because I understood her, I was then in a position to challenge her. And I said, “How did you respond?” And she said, “I cried uncontrollably.” And I said, “So which is it? Do you hate your dad? Or do you love you dad?” And her eyes got wide, and she kind of thought about the challenge there, and she said, “I think I hate it that I love my dad.” And I said, “Okay. Right here, right now, you’re at a critical juncture in your work. We now both know you love your dad. And that’s why it is so terrible for you that he treats you the way he treats you. If you didn’t love him, it wouldn’t matter so much. But you do love him. So let’s take that a step further. Instead of saying, ‘I hate it that I love my dad,’ let’s just tweak that just a little bit – let’s just reframe that just a little bit – ‘I love my dad, and because I love him so much, I hate the way he treats me. I hate it that he doesn’t love me back. It hurts me.’” She started crying again. The target went right in the heart – you know, the arrow. Well, from there – because she’s such a remarkable young woman – she was then able to get underneath all the rage she’d been experiencing. That’s why she came. She was terminally angry she said. She was able to get underneath all that and start to feel the sadness and the loss that she felt because her dad, she didn’t feel, loved her. See, the problem has been that she’s been defending herself from her dad’s rejection and that she wouldn’t admit the truth – that she really does love him, but that it hurts so much that he doesn’t love her back.
You know, God says, in Psalms 51 through David, that God desires truth in the inward parts. And when we hide truth from ourselves, it always comes back to bite us in the backside. And that’s true, whether we’re converted or not.
I think our special problem in the Church of God is that we think we are truth seekers, because we keep the Sabbath and holy days, when, in fact, we are, as a group, just as dishonest when it comes to internal issues as anybody else is. And that’s where a lot of our work needs to take place. We need to be honest about what’s going on inside.
I worked with a couple recently who had one child. (I’m going to give you four examples today. Two of them are younger. Two of them are older. This was an older one.) I worked with a couple who had one child. And these people were good parents. I had met their son and he’s really a good guy. But when their son hit fifteen, they said, “He went off his rocker.” Have you ever heard that before? After explaining the whole situation to me, it was obvious that they had been too restritctive as he started getting older. I use the example of people that wrap a baby in a blanket when it’s an infant. But they’ve tried to keep the blanket around him until he’s eighteen. And that just doesn’t work. And they needed to let go.
I could really relate to them, because I was too restrictive on my kids, too. So there we were – the clients and the therapist in the room – all in the same boat. Right? I think the thing that convinced them that I knew what I was talking about was not the license hanging on the wall, but my experience with my own children. I told them that I hoped they could avoid my mistakes.
I didn’t tell this to them, but, in looking back at that situation, while I was going through that experience – after I’d figured out what I’d done wrong – I realized that God was using my kids to teach me how to be more godly. What I learned is that God in not a control freak and I shouldn’t be one either. We all have free moral agency, right? We all get to decide how we’re going to live our lives.
And so here are these parents – really good parents – really nice people – but they’re not religious. And yet they are suffering the same problem that I suffered – just like the Bible says. So will their lesson – I think they’re actually starting to lighten up a little bit on their son – will this lesson help them in the resurrection or will it hinder them? Are they going to be more godly in how they treat other people as a result? Well, of course, they are!
So what’s the difference? Is it the problems? No. The problems are the same. Is it the suffering? No. We all suffer. Is it the change in behavior? No. People in the world can change their behavior just like we can. It’s a difference in perspective. It’s a difference in perspective provided by the Holy Spirit. The difference is the knowledge of God’s law and the knowledge of why living godly is important. And it’s also knowing why we live godly, and instead of feeling constrained by that, we are so grateful and happy that we can do that because of Jesus Christ. Right? That’s the difference.
Last example. A lady called me for an appointment quite a while ago. When she came in, I learned that she was a year older than I am – roughly my age. She, all her life, had suffered extreme anxiety. But she did not come in any time, up until the present, because of a specific by-product of that anxiety. I learned something from this lady – and I keep learning it. If we don’t deal with problems early on, they do not get better with age. They get worse! This lady went to her primary care physician because her hair was all falling out. And he said, “You’re so anxious it’s causing your hair to fall out. You need to talk to somebody.” So that’s how she came to talk to me. That was August. Now it’s April. Just a few weeks ago, she came into my office and she said, “Ta da!” And she had her hat off. She always wore a hat because of her baldness. And now she has a full head of hair. Her hair has all grown back. See, working together we processed all the painful childhood memories that have caused her to be an anxious person in the present day. The anxiety has been reduced and now her hair is growing back.
I want you to listen to what she told me. She said, “Bill, I want to tell you something. I’m a Christian.” No, she doesn’t keep the Sabbath and holy days. So I’m sure, to some people, she probably wouldn’t be. That’s the litmus test for us, just like the Trinity is the litmus test for the Protestants. When actually the litmus test ought to be who God says is a Christian. Not our department. “I’m a Christian. I wanted someone to help me who also had faith. So when I looked at the provider book” – provided by her insurance company – “I first prayed that God would guide me to someone who would respect my faith. And your name jumped off the page.” There’s hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people in that book – hundreds of them. And she said, “That’s how I came to you. And when I met you, I didn’t know if you were a Christian, but now I can say for sure that God has answered my prayer. Thank you for understanding my faith and for using it to help me.” And I said, “You’re welcome. I do respect your faith. But you were the one who did all the hard work.”
One of the biggest services we perform at LifeResource Ministries is that of helping people find helpers that respect their faith. We get calls about that. That’s probably the single most repetitve call that we get from people. “Help me find a therapist or whatever in my community.” The results – from the feedback we’ve gotten – have been good. So that’s makes me feel really good. I’ve kind of been on both sides of that and I just think about this woman who waited until her hair fell out to come for help. We shouldn’t be like that. We should be like the fifteen-year-old, who came for help early – the smart one. It’s much easier early to deal with those problems – but still possible at any age. You can even be as old as I am and still overcome problems.
Let’s shift gears here just a little bit. If the only reason we change is because we’re hurting, I think we’re really no different than our brothers and sisters in the world. Do you remember the section in Job, chapter 2, where the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him. He’s blameless and upright – a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you have incited Me against him to ruin him without any reason.” And Satan’s reply is very interesting. He said. “Skin for skin! A man will give up all that he has for his own life. But just stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones and he’ll surely curse you to your face.” So the devil believes that people are only motivated by self-protection and pain. But God knew that his dedicated servant put Him first – not himself. And I think that if we ask God to sanctify us – to change us – so that we can be like our elder brother, Jesus Christ, and like our Father, if we live godly because we’re grateful for what has been done for us, then I think we’re really living the meaning of the Days of Unleavened Bread. And we’re participating in the process of sanctification.
But, if we only take action to get away from pain, then I think we’re a lot like the world. And I think, most of the time, we act more like that than we do like the model that Paul gives. Some of the time we only take action when we’re in misery, rather than because we want to be like God.
But, on the encouraging side, even if we are like that, God says He will work with us until we’re doing it for the best reason. Sometimes, when I look at my own self-centered tendencies, and those of all my brethren, I wonder how God is going to separate us from all that humanity. But then I read Hebrews 2 and I am renewed. It says:
Heb. 2:11 – Both the One who makes men holy and those who are made holy are all of the same family. Wow! The One who sanctifies us – Who makes men holy – and those who are sanctified – who are made holy are of the same family. So, even though, spiritually, we’re a bunch of lunkheads a lot of the time, Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters.
Sometimes we get discouraged because of the problems we have, but we don’t have to worry. God has a plan to make us holy in spite of our carnal, selfish resistance. And He is strong! Jesus Christ, it says, is the author of our salvation, and He is, right now, aggressively working God’s plan for each one of us, leading us where we need to go, so that, in the end, we may live eternally with Him and our Father. We can’t do it by ourselves, but, if we remain faithful, God will help us. And He always succeeds.