Surprised by Sanctification

As an associate lay elder I have the privilege to serve the church and attend meetings with Pastor Mark, Pastor Jeff, Selby and David and if I am smart listening a lot and learning a lot. I was blessed by a recent meeting to listen to a discussion on what sanctification looks like and how God accomplishes sanctification. After the meeting I found myself reflecting and rejoicing over the five years my family has been at Leroy and the work Jesus is doing in our lives.

I came to the church weary from church activity and drifting rather than pursuing Christ. Our first Sunday at Leroy, Dave Carroll shared on Jesus providing rest for the weary, talk about finding a cool drink of water in the middle of the desert.

Paul uses an interesting phrase in Eph 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

At Leroy there have been many opportunities to be washed by the Word. I am so blessed to be able to weekly sit under so many gifted teachers of God’s Word at 90@9. The teaching of God’s Word from the pulpit at Leroy will sanctify your life if you pursue and apply it. I would encourage you to read the passage we are going to look at ahead of hearing it, check out the teachers and books that Pastor Mark references, even if they aren’t from this century. Take advantage of Godly relationships with precious saints at Leroy and allow them to speak God’s Word into your life.

I came to Leroy weary and find myself 5 years in surprised by the sanctifying work of being washed by the Word of God. I am so looking forward to the continuing work of God sanctifying us into that spotless bride.

  • Steve Selle

Discernment for the Caring of Others

Ou rdo g’sna meisT af fy. …  Say what?

Well, the first observation is that the spell check on my computer is going crazy, as it endeavors to clear up what I am intentionally trying to leave as fuzzy.

The focus of this blog is discernment, which at its core is a process of joining and/or separating ideas at points of difference so that the obscure is seen and truth can be distinguished from untruth. The notion of joining or separating ideas for the purpose of rendering a judgement is very unsettling to our culture and is quickly becoming a lost discipline. Unknowingly, we do this all of time. Consider the mish-mash of letters in the first paragraph. As printed, the groupings of letters make no sense. However, when they are regrouped we discover that Our dog’s name is Taffy. The proper grouping of letters is required to understand (or discern) communication.

As Christians, we are called to step into the intersection of ideas.  We need to think Biblically, carefully understanding right from wrong and the significant from the trivial. Whenever we are confronted with a notion that culture’s preaches as “a truth,” we should think carefully and then armed with the Word of God rise above our own weakness to see the matter as God sees it. This is not something that is always intuitive; it requires work with a renewed mind, skilled in God’s Word. As we grow in Christ, He gives us a longing to join our hearts with our brothers and sisters. Spirit-filled unity provides a means for teaching and learning about the Gospel, doctrine and mission.

Do you normally think of your conversation in the foyer of the Chapel as chit-chat? Or, is it a dialogue where you and someone else are trying to come to a friendly agreement? Or, have you considered that the person you are talking to is off-course doctrinally and has a wrong view of spiritual things? When that happens, your words escalate from chit-chat, as God positions you in this conversation, to wrestle with a suffering heart. In that moment, you recognize the criticality of keen listening, while prayerfully awaiting the Holy Spirit to provide discernment and the loving words, sufficient to the need.

Our knowledge of God grounded in the Bible positions us to help others, who are ensnared in wrong thinking, longing to be free. Discernment should be a tool in every believer’s toolbox, helping us live, work and play to the Glory of God.

  • Selby Brannon

Unified Mess

I sat in a group of pastors this morning as I have numerous times before; praying for unity and revival.  We talked about various church matters.  We fought off the urge to compete or brag about our church.  Some argued in a Christianese.  I’m sure your experience in a group of friends is similar; we know we are friends, but all the oddness of our differences and sin make feel-good life illusive.  Inevitably someone breaks the “I’ve got it all together” ice and lets others see the ugly.  For some, the discomfort of the moment overwhelms and they get defensive and others try to fix it.  Some know the reality of sin, suffering, and being “in process”, and are moved with compassion and show the stuff of genuine caring.

The bride is a mess and I’m learning to love all of her!

We can easily forget that unity of the church is not rooted in sameness.  To put it bluntly, we don’t like it.  Most of the time we think unity means others will be more like us.  Lord have mercy and grant us much grace of forgiveness.  We are all so different!  And that’s great!  We are not called to be exactly like one another.  No, in fact Peter says that even the many gifts given to the church accentuate our differences to exhibit a varied, or manifold grace (1 Peter 4:7-11).  When we take a wider view, we see a kind of multifaceted love functioning in and through the bride that glorifies the greatness of the one true God.  What a beautiful mess!

Also, fighting my self-righteousness, I need to be reminded that the unity of the church is not rooted in a gathering of sinless people.  We are a hot mess of forgiven sinners in process.  Sounds obvious, right?  Then why am I surprised when people sin greatly? Friends, Peter tells us that the bride will require a truck load of love and forgiveness supplied by a singular source: the cross of Christ.  And once again, Jesus unifies a band of sinners into a glorious worldwide display of his greatness!

Welcome to the unified mess called the church.

  • Pastor Jeff

The Perfecting Work of the Gospel

I don’t ever want to stop growing! For as long as the Lord gives me breath, I can’t imagine I will ever feel like I’m where I ought to be in my spiritual progress. The great promise is that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). The day of Jesus Christ is the day of His return. Paul is expressing his absolute confidence in the perfecting work of the Gospel. That no matter how long he lives, or how long before the return of Christ, one thing is sure – All God’s children will be made complete!

How to live until that day

Let me offer two corresponding truths related to our spiritual maturity in the here and now. The first, is this – The Spirit of God dwelling in you is at work sanctifying you now. Through your good choices and bad ones, through the joys and sorrows, gains and losses, The Spirit of holiness (Romans 1:4) is making you holy. You were declared holy at the point of your new birth by the finished work of Jesus; and you are being made holy day after day by the sanctifying Spirit in you, until the final day where the Father completes the work He promised by forever securing your holiness with no room for sin and no need for further growth.

The second, is this – You and I get to worship God through the renewing of our minds and the obedience of our wills. In other words, the passive work of grace done by the Spirit is to be met with our active decisions to keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). As God’s holy people, we can now choose holiness. We can say ‘no’ to lust and jealousy, and ‘yes’ to patience and self-control. We can say ‘no’ to laziness and unwholesome speech, and ‘yes’ to diligence and kindness. The fruit of the Spirit that is being produced in us by the Spirit will be practiced by Spirit-filled people who are focused on keeping in step with the Spirit. What a promise, what a gift!

We will be talking about this subject of Sanctification over the course of our Elder Blogs this ministry year (along with the themes of Unity, Gifts, and Discernment). Thanks for taking the time to allow us to shepherd you during the week for a few minutes. May God be glorified at LCC this ministry year!

  • Pastor Mark

Thank You Lord For The Local Church

We come to the end of yet another ministry year here at LCC and we as Staff and Elders couldn’t be more delighted at all that God has done in your lives and the life of our church family! The only fitting response it praise to the Father, Son, and Spirit for the fruit He produces in His children. We have seen marvelous growth through suffering, sorrow, joy and change. Thank you Lord for the local church called Leroy Chapel. We see you at work and we take no credit, simply ask for your glory to be on display more and more in the coming days!

This year in our Elder Blog we focused on the Vision Statement of Leroy Chapel – “To prayerfully advance Christ’s kingdom through: evangelizing, teaching, leadership development, and building the community of Gods people for the glory of God.” Our desire has been to help “work out” that vision with additional teaching each week that gets us all thinking about our role in the mission and vision of the church. We hope we served you well. If you have time, read back through some of the entries you may have missed. They are all tagged by the categories of  “LCC Vision”. But most of all, pray for God to do above and beyond what we could ask or imagine at your local church this summer and in the upcoming ministry year. We make plans, but God directs our steps, and we wouldn’t want it any other way!

  • Mark Spansel

Discipleship is Following Jesus

Do you recall this old camp song?

I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. Though none go with me, still I will follow, though none go with me, still I will follow… No turning back, no turning back. The world behind me, the cross before me…no turning back, no turning back.

 I can make a list of those who have helped me follow Jesus—can you? This is discipleship.

 John MacArthur says, “Discipleship is more than just being a learner, it’s being an intimate follower, having an intimate relationship, following to the point where you would go as far as death out of love.” God’s love for us starts a chain reaction. He loves us, then we love Him, and then we love others. I John 4:19-21 says, “We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar, for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

 “Being a disciple of Jesus means orienting our lives towards others, just as Jesus did. It means laboring for the sake of others…It requires an investor’s mentality, knowing that the return is eternal…God’s Word is the seed that ultimately bears fruit, even if we don’t see it in the short term.” (Mark Dever)

In other words, we labor, we sow, we rest, God grows!

 Discipling is initiating a relationship in which you teach, correct, model and love. And of course, it takes great humility. According to Philippians 2, it’s having the same mind, the same love, and using diverse gifts for the glory of God, not out of rivalry or competition, but counting others as more significant than self!

 As women, we shrink back from initiating relationships with other women for fear that we will somehow be found out that we are imperfect and that our flaws will be discovered and put on display. However … “That is our confidence: not that we have the perfect home and well-behaved children, but that in the muck and mire, God’s spirit is at work. Even in our weakness, God uses our words to warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, comfort the weak, and show patience to everyone, all for His great glory.” (Erin Wheeler)

We get so mixed up by believing our own glory is at stake when in fact, we exist for making His name great through our relationships!

Through our discipleship, we want people to grow in the knowledge of God in Christ, and faith comes from hearing the Word of Christ. Mark Dever explains, “they cannot obey what they haven’t been taught.” And you cannot impart what you do not possess.

 Don’t think discipleship happens without sacrifice. Just look at the disciples when Jesus called them to follow Him! They immediately left their nets and family behind and followed in obedience! Discipleship requires the sacrifice of time. It requires hearing and studying the Word of God. It requires lifting your eyes to the Wonderful Counselor in prayer. It requires love.

 “Our purpose for pursuing Titus 2 character, relationships, and ministry is not merely to be better wives, moms, and ministry leaders, to have a better reputation, or to be able to sleep better at night. Our ultimate purpose is to make much of God. We do that as we experience, enjoy, and reflect the loveliness of Christ, making Him known to a world that is starved for true beauty.” (Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, Adorned,)

 Are you walking hand in hand with others in your church community? Can you say, “Follow me as I follow Christ?”

 “Show me your redeemed life and I might be inclined to believe in your Redeemer.” (19th century German philosopher, Heinrich Heine)

  • Michelle Spansel

Sacrificial Serving

“To see the Church strengthen every person so that they invest in the equipping others, through: serving sacrificially in every area of life.”

The sacrificial service of a Christian, pouring themselves into the life of another, for the advancement of God’s Kingdom, is highest form of discipleship. In the business world, the term to describe this activity is mentorship, where the experienced leader works directly with the novice to develop useful skills that advances the cause of the organization. Actually, mentoring is a biblical principle. Consider the example of Joseph, a Levite, from Cyprus, whom the Apostles called Barnabas, “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36). Barnabas probably did not get his nickname by slapping people on the back saying, “you can do this.” No, a nickname is affectionately awarded someone when their personality traits and actions reflect an attribution i.e., encouragement.

So, who did Barnabas mentor? The first person we see sponsored by Barnabas is none other than Saul of Tarsus, who tried to destroy the Church. Acts 9 describes the story of Saul’s conversion and subsequent joining in the church. The passage indicates that the Jerusalem church was not convinced that Saul was a Christ follower, and for good reason. Yet, Barnabas brought him to the apostles (v. 27), spoke on Saul’s behalf and in time, the church was at peace with Saul. Some time later, Saul and Barnabas were commissioned as a missionary team, sharing the gospel and encouraging believers as they traveled from place to place.

A quiet event occurred during the first journey that had great impact on the duo and reset Barnabas’ next major sponsorship. John Mark, one of the younger members of the team, deserts the work and returns home.  As Paul and Barnabas plan their second missionary journey, John Mark wants to join back in but Paul wants no part of it. Barnabas had a decision to make, stay with Paul or begin a mentorship with John Mark. Barnabas choses the younger man and they sail to Cyprus (15:39) – that is not the end of the story; however. Eventually, we learn that John Mark is reunited with Paul in Rome (Colossians 4:10; Philemon 24) and as Paul approaches the end of life, he requests that Timothy “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11).

What can we learn from this? We should look for ways to be used of God in the caring of His people. Sometimes our discipleship commitments are short-term. Yet, there are times when we are called to step into the lives of our brothers and sisters for the long-term, helping them develop their spiritual skill sets, growing together in Christ. Long-term discipleship is not an evaluation of the church talent pool; it is a calling to invest in the equipping of others for the Glory of God.

  • Selby Brannon