Seriously, this point cannot be understated or tossed to the side as though it were "no big deal" either, especially when everyone wants to talk incessantly about the sanctified saint as opposed to the Savior Who does the sanctifying.
While so many of the problems within Christianity today stem from an improper understanding of Law and Gospel, it's also true that so many of the problems also stem from a "Me, Myself, And I -- In Jesus' Name!" brand of American Pop Christianity.
That's why I thoroughly enjoyed an 18-minute excerpt from a lecture that Dr. John Kleinig delivered back in 2009 about the "Theology of the Cross" compared to the "Theology of Glory" and their direct connection to the "Doctrine of Sanctification" that so many of us struggle with properly understanding.
In short, he reminds us that, "With the spiritual life, the harder you work at it, the harder it becomes; the more you will experience failure."
Listen to this...
The full presentation was delivered at Australian Lutheran College.
In fact, Rev. Matt Richard points out that Dr. Kleinig's classic book Grace Upon Grace grew out of teaching this course over many years.
Personally, one of the more powerful comments he made, which resonated with me as an ex-Evangelical is this...
"...we move away from pride in ourselves and our own achievements to a gradual awareness of our spiritual failure and Christ's work in us as we entrust ourselves to Him. We move away the conviction that we are self-sufficient to the repeated experience of spiritual bankruptcy. We move on from delusions of our spiritual importance to a growing sense of our utter insignificance and the glory of God. We move on from delight in our own power to the painful recognition of our spiritual weakness. We are brought from our self-righteousness to the increasing consciousness that we are sinful."
Friends, I'm sorry, but who else except the faithful Lutherans in the world are the ones preaching these kinds of Biblical truths?
You won't find them in American Evangelicalism. I would know from firsthand experience.
You won't hear about it in Roman Catholicism or coming from the lips of the Pope.
You certainly won't get even a whiff of this from Charismatics and Pentecostals either.
Yet, as Dr. Kleinig pointed out, "This is the central reality of our spiritual lives: that the closer you get to God, the darker things become."
We see sanctification through "reverse progress" where we become more and more dependent upon God as we mature in the faith and are sanctified throughout our lives, not more and more independent.
In a Lutheran layman's terms, and to quote Dr. Kleinig once more, the process of sanctification (and the related idea of "spiritual progress" in our lives from the time we become a Christian to our last and final dying breath) means we become more and more like "Spiritual Beggars" as opposed to becoming more and more like "Spiritual Millionaires" instead.
NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 3 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!