Reflections on Uganda Part 4 - Sanctifying Grace

“For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”

Hebrews 10:14

    Jackfruit is a sticky, juicy, fibrous fruit found practically everywhere in Uganda.  Ugandans love it.  I suppose, if given enough time, I might grow to love it too.  As it is, I politely eat it when it is served my way.  I’ve learned to recognize the pods of fruit when they are served on a plate.  More easily recognizable, though, is the jackfruit tree.  The tree is recognizable because the fruit is distinctive.  

    Jackfruit has a shape that is uniform in its non-uniformity.  I guess I would best describe the shape as that of a water balloon, sagging and drooping all around.  The exterior is a light green, with a rough, though not prickly, texture.  They often grow in clusters, and can be as big as a basketball.  I give you this description so that you will know one when you see one.  And when you see one on the tree, you will know the tree is a jackfruit tree.

    There is actually a Biblical point to all of this.  The Bible tells us you will know them by their fruit and that as Christians, we are to bear healthy fruit.  Over the course of our “red dirt road” conversation about Uganda (though really about us here in the US), we’ve spoken of the difference between knowing about Jesus, and truly knowing him.  One of the points I’ve tried to make throughout is that if we truly know him, that knowledge, by definition, transforms us.  With this transformation, there should be growing evidence of fruit in our lives.  

    So what is this fruit.  In part, it is to be found in a growing desire for God’s Word, a growing desire for prayer, and a growing desire to be with God’s children in the church of Jesus Christ.  Over and over again, while in Uganda, I not only spoke of this fruit bearing life…I witnessed it.  In the US, we take it for granted that we have easy access to Bibles.  We take it so for granted, that we make little use of the Bibles on our bookshelves.  For many Ugandans, they have no such luxury.  We have found that one of the greatest gifts, and one of the ones most often asked for, is a Bible in their own language.  

    In fact, my friend Jason made multiple trips to bookstores buying new Bibles for recent converts.  These people had experienced the life-altering grace of Jesus Christ, and they now had a desperate desire to grow in the knowledge of him.  Though they may not have had the words to identify their new desires, they were in fact experiencing a Holy Spirit driven desire to grow in Christlikeness.

    What about us?  What about you?  If someone were to examine the fruit in your life, what would it reveal about your heart?  I know that even as I ask this question, it can seem off-putting, particularly when all you’ve heard is about transforming and shame erasing grace.  So if my question is causing you to pause, let me reassure you that this same grace is also a sanctifying grace.  Let me explain the connection.

    For some of us, these beautiful truths I’ve been writing about are a refreshing reminder.  For some, this is radical news.  For all of us, something inside resists.  Why?  Well, maybe we think this is just too good to be true.  Maybe, the idea of justifying grace is so diametrically opposed to the message we hear in all of life, that we just can’t seem to rest.

    We live in a world that seems to be built upon an endless stream of IF-THEN propositions.  IF we study hard, THEN we will make good grades.  IF we go to the right school, THEN we will get a good job.  IF we are beautiful, smart, and athletic, THEN we will be worthy of a desirable spouse.  IF we eat our vegetables, THEN we will be healthy.  Do you see the innumerable ways this IF-THEN mindset impacts your life?

    Set against this message, the gospel of Jesus Christ says no to IF-THEN thinking and gives us another form of logic.  YOU ARE - SO BE.  In Christ, YOU ARE righteous - SO BE who he has already declared you to be.  In Christ, YOU ARE a beloved child of God - SO BE a child of God.  In Christ YOU ARE redeemed - SO BE that.

    The gospel truth here is that you don’t earn your status with God, so growth in the Christian life doesn’t change your grace given status.  Growth in the Christian life is a form of worship and is the natural outflow of the Holy Spirit’s work in your life.  This is sanctifying grace.  It is a lifelong process of growing in holiness, not to convince God that we are worthy, but because this is who he has already declared us to be.  

    Please don’t be put off by the question of fruit in your life.  It is an appropriate question.  Please also don’t be taken out by the struggles that you experience on a day to day basis.  There will be struggles in the Christian life.  Christian growth is not a straight-line growth path.  There are steps forward, and there will be steps back.  This is why we continue to depend on the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

    When I describe our church, I describe us as a people who have been transformed by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and who are being transformed by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I believe that is what Hebrews 10:14 points out when it says, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”  Jesus has transformed us.  He has made us holy.  Jesus is still transforming us.  He is making us holy.  WE ARE - SO WE ARE BEING.

    Friend, you need to know this truth in your own life.  If you are in Christ, your status is secure, but you are still a work in progress.  Your life as a Christian is one of growth in holiness, for the glory of God.  So embrace, and rest in, the knowledge of transforming, shame erasing, and sanctifying grace.