As Paul closes out his letter to the Corinthians, he refreshes us with the power of the Holy Spirit.
7 Now we pray to God that you do no wrong; not that we ourselves may appear approved, but that you may do what is right, even though we may appear unapproved. 8 For we can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth. 9 For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you are strong; this we also pray for, that you be made complete. 10 For this reason I am writing these things while absent, so that when present I need not use severity, in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me for building up and not for tearing down. 11 Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints greet you. 14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.
There are a few elements in this salutation that we must not miss:
Perfection is possible through the Holy Spirit.
I immediately thought back to a bible study I was in where someone told me about a guy they knew who said he no longer sinned. I scoffed at the notion and made a big deal about it. The air was a little awkward for a moment afterwards until we moved on, but I’ve always remembered that night. Can someone really live a life devoid of sinfulness? Well, yeah, if you’re Jesus, right? But how did Jesus live this life? He lived a sin free life not because He is God, but because He had the Spirit of God living in Him! This is a novel concept, isn’t it? Since my display of rejection against this notion, it has been in my mind as I read the scriptures. Then Jesus smacks me in the head, “Be perfect just as your father in heaven is perfect.” Until now, I’ve always maintained that this refers to our reaction to sin. We are called to live a life of repentance as followers of Christ and so I always looked at it as a reactionary principle, not a preventative principle. Yet Jesus didn’t respond to sin in a reactive way, rather a proactive way. He never sinned. He always cut it off at the temptation stage, not the guilt stage. I think the devil has tricked us into believing that sin is going to happen whether we want it to or not and all we can do is ask for forgiveness afterwards.
We get our strength through the Holy Spirit.
John 14 is a powerful chapter in the bible about the purpose of the Holy Spirit. It is by the Holy Spirit we are not only transformed, but we are empowered. I don’t say this to encourage you to try to go around shooting fire from your fingertips, rather that when we have the Holy Spirit inside of us, we really have no good excuse for our sinfulness. As Paul reminded us in the 5th chapter of this letter He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. If we are made righteous, then how can we continue to sin? We’ve fallen into the concept of what Bonhoffer called “cheap grace,” where we accept sinfulness as not only a part of life, but a way of life and don’t pay as much mind to it as we should. IT SEPARATES US FROM GOD!
Sanctification is the process through which we become at peace with God.
The word “peace” means unity. I always try to keep this in mind to put into perspective what peace with God means. Paul mentions to the Romans that once we believe in Christ, we can be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This transformation and renewing is the realization of God’s will and plan at the very least for our lives. Some of us get glimpses of the bigger picture, but regardless of what God reveals to us, the revelations transform us and our thinking. This is a result of our will aligning with His. Our attitude changes and our perspective becomes that of the Kingdom of God instead of the reign of Satan. Instead of being tricked into following things that further separate us from God, we listen to and remember His Truth and instead follow His will. This, of course, is only possible if we stay deep in His Word. You can’t know someone’s desires and will unless you develop a deep relationship with them. Bible study is the best step towards knowing and learning how to follow God’s will.
As true believers in Christ there are no excuses not to be a true follower. Every step is a choice between one of the two trees: the Tree of Life or the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The second tree, when we partake of it, reveals to us this knowledge through sinfulness. We learn what evil is by doing it and therefore start down the path of shame, guilt, and separation from God. He redeems us, yes, but He also gives us the gift that keeps on giving: His Spirit. I encourage you to read John 14 (linked above) to learn how powerful and purposeful the spirit is that is living inside you. If you don’t have it, then what are you waiting for?