It is a grave error and a massive conceit to attempt to usurp the role of God in another person’s sanctification process, telling God, “As far as I’m concerned, you’re not working fast enough.”
So writes Dan Edelen in his post A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.
Oh I needed to read this today! Dan refers to this passage:
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
– 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 ESV
That’s a great word. We are all being transformed into the image of Christ, from one degree of glory to another. It’s a process that does not end while we’re on this earth. “One degree of glory to another” – wow! There is hope for me after all.
But what of others? How do I treat them as I observe them at their place on the journey of sanctification? I’ve had some wise friends caution me recently that I am far too impatient with (and discouraged by) others who aren’t “getting it” as fast as I want them to. Dan presents a view of sanctification as a numberline, from -10 to +10, with +10 being the image of Christ:
But what are we to expect when someone starts at -9? Is +7 a week after meeting Jesus possible? A month? A year? A decade? If we can’t distinguish the difference in the sun’s arc across the sky from one minute to the next, how confident are we that we see with the eyes of God that one minute difference in the arc of a person’s sanctification process? To go back to the 2 Corinthians 3 passage and its note on “degrees of glory,” there are 180 degrees in a U-turn. A long obedience in the same directionThat’s a lot of tiny steps to take. Being made to look like Jesus is not a blink-of-an-eye affair, but one of a lifetime of minute, resolute steps. As Eugene Peterson’s classic book on discipleship is titled, it’s “a long obedience in the same direction.”
There’s not a person reading this now who doesn’t know at least one Christian out there who’s taking a long time to break out of the negative numbers on the depravity scale and into those higher, positive sanctification digits. Yet what does it say about us when we screw up our faces and rail that the ex-biker who spent ten years smoking crack isn’t where he should be after meeting Jesus two years ago because he smokes cigarettes now instead of crack? Sure, he’s down to just a pack a day from five a year ago, but still. And just why is it that he takes so long locating the Book of Habakkuk?
I really, really needed to read this today.
Go read the whole post if you get a chance.