Resembling God in Our Works
If we truly belong to the Lord, we should show resemblances to our heavenly Father. What our God is in Himself and how He thinks and acts toward us should with increasing prevalence characterize our own attitudes and actions toward the Lord and His people. Of course there is this great difference between the attitude and actions of our Lord and us: His flow from gracious giving, ours from grateful receiving. We may consider this resemblance between ourselves and our God in light of the three major aspects of redemption, namely, justification, sanctification, and glorification.
1. IN JUSTIFICATION
It is a fact, drawn from the inerrant testimony of Scripture, that God justifies sinners (Rom. 3:25). By His sovereign grace, He makes people who are dead in sin to be alive with Christ, and regards them as accepted in His beloved Son (Eph. 2:5). If we have been so justified by the saving work of God in Christ, we shall become ourselves justifiers of the Lord and of our brethren in Christ.
We justify God when we think true and right things about Him; when we speak true and right things on His behalf; and when we act in a way that demonstrates our grateful commitment to Him as the One who is just and the justifier of our souls. Whereas God’s justification of us graciously reckons us to be just-although in ourselves we are actually far from being just-our justification of God rightly perceives Him to be just in all of His being and ways. Therefore, we do not regard a painful providence, for example, as indicating that the Lord’s promise or provision of love have failed. Rather, we reckon that our Lord has good, holy, wise, and loving purposes guiding His having ordained that such painful providences should come upon us. This is precisely what Job did when he blessed the Lord who had given to him and had taken from him. In light of the demonstrated and infinitely costly love of God in His giving of His only begotten Son for us while we were still sinners, we can rightly do nothing other than see God as being justified in all of His ways.
Those who have been justified by God also become justifiers of their brethren. The justified know that they have received mercy and love, and, consequently, they delight to show mercy and love to their brethren. The justified are increasingly inclined to be tenderhearted, forgiving and restoring their offending brethren, as they themselves have experienced the tender and restoring mercies of God in Christ Jesus (Eph. 4:32). The justified also are inclined ever to regard the actions of their brethren in light of the judgment of charity. Therefore, they place the best, not the worst, construction upon all that their brethren do.
2. IN SANCTIFICATION
God is the sanctifier of His people. Those who are truly being sanctified by the operations of the Holy Spirit, imparting the righteousness of Christ to them, will be inclined to sanctify both the Lord and their brethren. This does not mean that they try to make the Lord more holy, in the way that God’s Holy Spirit progressively conforms us to the image of Christ. However, as sanctification entails a holy separation, as well as one’s being holy, so the sanctified in Christ will set apart the Lord from the common places of one’s neglect of, confusion and preoccupation with, lesser people and priorities. They will exalt Him to the highest place of their hearts and lives (1 Pet. 3:15). Thus, they will have highest regard and deepest love for the Lord, and only secondarily for other people or things.
Those who are truly sanctified also sanctify their brethren, viewing them as they are and shall be in Christ, and not as they may appear to be at given times of their weak faith and sinful performance. The sanctified do not just set apart their brethren from others, as being those justified and sanctified in Christ, they actually do all they can to promote the growth of their brethren in holiness. Hence, they determine not to put stumbling blocks before their brethren, but rather to encourage them to be built up in the faith through the truth spoken in love (Eph. 4:11-16).
3. IN GLORIFICATION
Finally, God glorifies His people (Rom. 8:30). The saving work of our God, that begins in its application to us with our being convicted and humbled by our sins, reaches its consummation with our exaltation to the throne of God’s glory, where we shall stand blameless and with great joy (Jude 1:24), and from where we shall reign with Christ in glory forever (Rev. 22:4,5).
Those destined to be so glorified by God are inclined to ascribe glory to God in all things. They seek to honor and glorify God in their thoughts, words, and deeds. The glory of God is their highest concern, and they endeavor to do all things for the glory of their Lord; they hallow His name and would have it to be hallowed in all creation (Mt. 6:9). They also prefer their brethren in honor to themselves (Phil. 2:3). They increasingly treat their brethren with the high respect that those deserve who one day will shine with the reflected glory of Christ.
By our manifestation of these operations ofj ustification, sanctification, and glorification, we make our own calling and election more sure. Let us, therefore, make it our conscious aim to be ones who, by God’s enabling grace, more consistently justify, sanctify, and glorify the Lord and His people.
William Harrell is the Pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Norfolk, Virginia www.ipc.faithweb.comand is the author of the Banner of Truth book Let’s Study 1 Peter
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