By Melissa McLaughlin
Spring brings a variety of sweet memories from my past and heartwarming feelings of anticipation in the present. A fond memory from my childhood is that of my father starting seeds indoors in early spring. Sometimes in egg cartons, sometimes in small peat pots. The seeds would be carefully buried under the soil, given just enough water to provide proper moisture, covered with plastic wrap and sealed with tape or a rubber band. This kept the moisture in until the seeds sprouted. The newly planted seeds would then be placed in a sunny window. Each morning my dad would take a quick peek at his seeds to see if there were signs of new life yet. Even the tiniest glimmer of green bursting forth was cause for rejoicing! One of life’s sweetest and simplest delights is the excitement of checking for new life rising up from under the earth.
Soon after the seeds sprouted, the plastic wrap was removed to allow for rapid growth. Now the young shoots had to be watered regularly to maintain accurate moisture levels. As soon as the temperatures were consistently warm enough the sprouts were transplanted outside in the ground in neat rows in my father’s recently tilled garden soil. Each summer we enjoyed and still do enjoy the most delicious and bountiful harvest from my dad’s garden. Juicy red tomatoes, sugary sweet corn, crisp crunchy cucumbers, creamy smooth potatoes, tender young peas, flavorful green beans and more! I was spoiled by these fresh-from-the-garden treats! So much so, that now I find it difficult to buy grocery store fruits and veggies after having been raised on such luxuries. Truly God’s homegrown provisions are sweetest.
Similarly, as Christians we are transformed from the seed of faith, to new sprouts, to seedlings, to developing plants to fruit-bearing plantings for the Lord. Once we believe in Jesus, our lives are transformed from a spiritually lifeless form to a vibrant growing follower of Him who makes all things new! They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 61:3b
However, one question that plagued me for some time, was that of sin in the life of a Christian. I knew that once I believed in Jesus as my Savior and asked Him to be the Lord of my life, the Bible clearly states that I am forgiven of all my sins. And that’s great news! But why do I find myself still falling into sin or sometimes flat out choosing sin? Isn’t the battle with sin over and done with?
When we first become a believer and follower of Jesus, we are saved from our sins, fully forgiven for all sins past, present and future. This is the gift of salvation! Salvation means we are set free from the penalty of sin. By choosing Jesus as our Savior, we admit we are sinners who are deserving of God’s punishment but by the grace of God we are saved through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Jesus extends incredible grace and mercy to us by paying the penalty for our sins with His own life. We are rescued from hell and are assured a place in heaven. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
This moment of salvation is when the seed of faith is planted within us.
The seed of faith in Christ guarantees and secures our final destination. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
Salvation to Sanctification
What peace and joy knowing we are heaven-bound, not by our efforts, but by faith in Christ alone! What a gift! Yet, as we rest in this eternal peace, our response to this amazing gift changes everything. The way we know that our faith in Christ is genuine is that it grows, just like any other living and growing thing. Our faith must sprout, shoot up, grow and gain strength. Once we confess Jesus as our Lord and Savior and believe in Him, He sends His Holy Spirit to live in our hearts. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can now overcome the power of sin in our lives, little by little, day by day. This marvelous process of transformation is called sanctification, as we steadily, over time, begin to look, talk, think and act more and more like Jesus.
Even as devoted Christians we still miss the mark, stumble into sin and sometimes willfully choose to sin. When we do fall short, the Bible instructs us in this. If we confess our sins and He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 As we turn to Him, confess our sin and repent by acknowledging to God that He is right and we are wrong, He will help us choose His ways over our sin-filled self-centered ways.
Ask the Holy Spirit to convict you when you are out of line with God’s Word or God’s will. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a humble and repentant heart. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you the way to escape any temptations. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you find an accountability mentor and partner. A trustworthy Christian who is willing to listen, celebrate your successes and pray with you when you fall down. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16
As you surrender your will to God’s will, day by day, the power of sin will dissipate. Make no mistake about it, the power of sin is real, but the power of the Holy Spirit of our resurrected Jesus is stronger still. Nevertheless, the believer in Jesus must surrender daily, move away from sin and toward God through Bible reading, prayer and connection with other Christians in order to overcome. We are stronger together than we are alone. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:11
With the help of the Holy Spirit at work in our hearts and minds, as we surrender more and more of our thoughts, time and lives to the Lord, we slowly grow in holiness, replacing our sinful ways with Godly traits and Spirit-filled qualities we cannot develop on our own. Incredibly, we begin to display the Fruit of the Spirit instead of our “go-to self-serving” instincts. These beautiful Christlike traits include: love, joy, peace patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, self-control. Just saying these words aloud brings me joy!
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18
God never says we will not be tempted in this life. God knows we will not be completely free from the presence of sin until we are in heaven and are no longer part of this broken sin-fallen world. For this reason, when Jesus taught His disciples the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6, He made provisions for us to confess ongoing sin until that day.
When we finally reach heaven, only then will we be completely free of the presence of sin. What a day of rejoicing that will be! This has come to be known as glorification. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:4
The fruit of our faith will then be made fully known, as once we are in heaven, the Lord will reward us for our righteous deeds.
Like the seeds my father plants every spring, we look nothing like we did when the seed of faith in Christ was first planted in our hearts. Much like the watermelon seed looks nothing like the final fruit it bears. The seed contains elements needed to become something else entirely, full of God-created, God-given life. As that seed of faith sprouts, grows and develops, it will have to withstand days of too much rain, too much sun, insects and birds, heavy winds and countless other obstacles in order to reach full maturity and produce fruit. The growing season is not easy, much like the purification or sanctification process is not easy for us. However, once the fruit is fully grown, it offers nourishment and contains the seeds of life for other new plants to begin. One day, when we are in heaven, the spiritual fruit we have produced on this earth will be rewarded by the One who created us and placed the seed of faith in our hearts. Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. Revelation 22:12
What a joy to know that when we confess Jesus as our Savior and Lord we are forgiven of our sins past, present and future!
1.Through the gift of Salvation we are forgiven the penalty of our sins.
2.Through the process of Sanctification we are set free from the power of our sins.
3.Finally, we look forward to that day when we will revel in the gift of Glorification, being set free from the presence of all sin, as we rest in heaven, in Christ’s complete perfection, goodness and holiness and share in His glory, face to face! The presence of all sin will be completely removed. Oh what a day that will be!
What a good, good Heavenly Father! He created us. He gave us His laws of righteousness so we would know right from wrong. He sent His own Son, Jesus, to fulfill those laws of righteousness because we could not. He sent His Holy Spirit to live in the hearts of those who believe, to be transformed into His likeness and reflect His glory. And now He has gone on ahead to prepare a place for us in heaven. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going. John 14:2-4
May we rejoice again today! The power of sin is broken! Past, present and future! Jesus has done it all! May we rest in His amazing grace today, tomorrow and always!
Photos courtesy of Pixabay.