A three-fold challenge (Part 2 of 3)

The Great Commission Jesus gave his disciples to the end of the age is to make disciples. Notice - that’s more than making converts!

Conversion is the first part of the Great Commission, which Jesus puts in terms of baptising all nations in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. But making disciples is more than making converts, since it also involves the second half - teaching those who have been baptised to obey all that Jesus has commanded.

Another way to put this two-fold commission is to say that sanctification (growing in obedience to all that Jesus has commanded) must follow on after justification (being made right with God by union with Christ through faith, enacted in baptism).

And the key thing is this - to make sure that the sanctification genuinely flows out from the justification.

There are all sorts of ways to miss this step. I suspect that the most common way of framing how sanctification proceeds is simply through an appeal to the will. We are to be more disciplined, focused and self controlled, and simply work harder to obey God. Alternatively, sanctification can be framed as a matter of right thinking, trickling down into our lives. Or again, as simply the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit.

Of course, there is an element of truth in all these approaches. But you can see how all of them in fact fail to organically link sanctification to justification. They just ‘bolt on’ sanctification.

Rather, the key is to understand how sanctification is a matter first and foremost of the heart. This is because, as St Augustine and Martin Luther both understood, all our behaviour, whether directed in obedience or disobedience to God, comes from the desires of our hearts. We disobey God because our hearts are set on some other god, an idol, as the supposed source of life and joy. And likewise, we obey God when our hearts are set on Jesus Christ.

And so here’s the point - it’s only the free grace of justification in Jesus Christ that has the power to melt our hearts, to so captivate us that our affections are lifted off our idols, and instead rest on the living and true God. And when the affections of our hearts rest in Christ, we can grow in our obedience to all that Jesus has commanded us. Of course, our hearts are fickle, prone to wander, and so this process of repentance and faith will only end when Jesus returns. But in so far as we do grow in that obedience, it will only ever be by this dynamic of grace renewal.

Andrew Katay, CEO