The Sanctifying Church

clip art churchI’m working through a series right now called “Living as the Church.” I said this before and I’ll say it again, church is a verb. It’s an action. It’s something that we live and we do. The church is the body of Jesus, reflecting the kingdom of God here on earth today, pointing the way to the coming Kingdom of God and what it will look like. We are to proclaim the coming kingdom of God. We are to live out this proclamation of the coming kingdom of God.

But more than that, we are sanctifiers. We are to be the sanctifying church. But what in the world is sanctifying anyway? The word sanctify is from the word sanctification. It’s a big theological word that means a work in progress. In Michigan there’s two seasons–winter and construction. Recently they just wrapped up rebuilding a bridge over the Grand River on I-196. Someone had the plan and what it would look like from beginning to end. Someone had the picture of what it would look like when finished. All I saw for the most part were the people working (and sometimes not working) and the heavy machinery. But I didn’t understand what it would look like until the final process was done. And now it looks great.

Sanctification is a work in progress. For those who call on the name of Jesus, the Holy Spirit works through you, in you, and with you. The Holy Spirit works in you to make you more like Jesus in every way. It’s a path to perfection which ends when we breathe our last. It’s a massive construction process.

And as the church, as the body, an organic body of Jesus, we are to live a life of sanctification being sanctified sanctifiers. Dude. Okay. I just lost someone there. Sorry.

In short it’s like this: If you call on the name of Jesus, you are to be holy as God is holy. And this can only be done by the power of the Holy Spirit. Because we are made holy, our own personal piety leads to the work of the Holy Spirit moving through us to help make others in this world holy.

Dude. Okay. That’s a bit new agey sounding…but it ain’t. As the body of Jesus, as the church, we are to go out into the world and show what it means to be part of the body of Jesus, show what it means to be part of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God will be filled with His glory and His holiness. And we are to be the ones who go forth being used to help others become holy.

Darrel Guder in his book Missional Church, says that our holiness, powered by the Holy to Spirit, is to be seen in our action in what he calls “concrete service” to those who are hurting, in need, those who Jesus himself reached out to.

As a sanctified sanctifier, our mission is to become Jesus and live out this holiness in action as much as anything else. In helping others see Jesus we help them call on Jesus and in doing so help them become holy as our Father in heaven is holy.

In other words, we are to live out this holiness. It isn’t just personal piety. It isn’t just staying at home reading your bible and praying but living out Scripture and living out your prayers. It means praying for those who are in need and then doing something about it.

As the sanctifying church, we are to move forward in the holiness we have helping others become holy by our actions. This starts as living as the church. It starts as being an active member of the body. You can’t just do it all alone. You need the body of Jesus to do it.

At the same time, we can’t make the excuse that we’re not gifted to do it. It’s part of who we are. Each gift that we have been given by the Holy Spirit is to be used for the service of God’s kingdom.

We read

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord…Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-5, 7

Each one of us who belongs to the body of Jesus are given a gift, a spiritual gift, to increase the kingdom of God, to do God’s work here on earth, to live out this holiness. You’re not in it alone. You have been equipped to do this work of holy service.

The question is, will you do it or stay on your duff and be passive. Church is a verb. It is an action. In fact it is a holy action. How can you live as the sanctifying church?

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3 Responses to The Sanctifying Church

  1. rick persenaire says:

    Josh
    I think “the Church ” is also a noun, a place that we are used by the Spirit to encourage, educate, discipline others in their sanctification. The Spirit never sprinkles magic fairy dust on us and we become sanctified, that requires the hard work of biblical preaching, servant leadership by biblically qualified elders, engaging catechism instruction, biblical discipline including protecting the elements of the sacraments and excommunication, living and worshiping “only scripture” and “only God”. All of the studies involving young people leaving the church tell us the church isn’t authentic, that the church and it’s god is a feel good place and a feel good god and they can get that kind of relationship from many human organizations and activities. The Church is called to go out and make disciples throughout the world, not go out and put lots of butts in seats. We are called to be salt and light, salt enhances, flavors, improves and brings joy, it also kills bacteria and preserves. Light on a hill shows the way, brings joy and removes fear, but also exposes evil and drives away the robber.
    I agree we need to stop doing church and start being the church but we need to start doing that with excellence unlike what we have been doing for the last 30 years.

    • Josh says:

      Rick, You have some good observations. What you describe are actions of the church, which still places church as a verb. A noun is a person, place or thing. In that the church the body of Christ makes it a noun but a noun must have a verb to tell what the noun does. What does the body of Christ do but do exactly as you described–have sound biblical teaching, have discipleship, have the sacraments administered and defended. All these things are things that are done, are actions. These are still important parts of the marks of the church–preaching of the word, implementing the sacraments and church discipline/discipleship. But to keep it at just a noun limits what the church is and needs to do to reach the lost and to build up those who are in the body already.

      What are some of your thoughts on how we can be the hands and feet to do the holy work of Christ as the church living out what you described?

  2. Pingback: The Reconciling Church | Spiritual Musclehead

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