Wait what? Why is sanctification on that list? What could these three have in common? Thanks for asking :) I think we'd agree that the first two are inevitable. For most every human, those two words impact our daily lives. Take my taxes for example (please, someone, anyone take em!) Like it or not, we all gotta pay taxes (let's be honest, the person who likes taxes doesn't exist). However, Jesus instructed his followers to pay their taxes, even to the oppressive Roman government.
On a more serious note, let's examine death. Whether it's someone in the news or someone you love, hollowed hopes or dashed dreams, the ever-present, all-encompassing presence of death infiltrates every moment of this temporal life. Sin contaminates, destroys and reminds us all that death respects no one.
So far, I think we (you the reader, I the writer) agree on death and taxes. But that doesn't answer your first question, how does sanctification fit in with the undesirable yet inescapable duo?
Answer: For believers, sanctification is inescapable. What is sanctification? Simply put, it is the transforming work of the Holy Spirit within believers to shape them into the image of Jesus Christ. God is continually growing me and continually growing you, if you are a believer. So, maybe I should rephrase the title? For Believers, Death. Taxes. Sanctification. Regardless of the title wording, this truth should greatly encourage you in at least two ways.
First, God is deeply interested in transforming you and completing that transformation. He refuses to leave you and me as we are but changes us into something far more glorious. What a comforting truth, that He constantly controls circumstances to change my character to be more Christlike. I can always have hope and confidence through every situation in my life because God the Creator, Sustainer, Shepherd, Rock, Fortress, King (the list goes on) orchestrates every "obstacle" in my life as an opportunity for this sanctification. Because my God loves me, I have hope he won't abandon me but will continue the good work he began in me until I see Him!
Second, God is deeply interested in every believer! Is this repetitively redundant? Maybe. But, I believe it's worth the risk of redundancy to extrapolate this important principle. You can, or might I boldly say, you must hope and believe that God will not leave other believers where they are but, will steadily sculpt and shape our spiritual siblings through this sanctification. Therefore, I shouldn't pigeonhole my brothers and sisters, refusing to believe that they can change. Because of the gospel, I CAN'T hold this mindset. To do so grossly distorts the reality of God's persistent, transforming grace. Because my God loves all his children, I can, I must believe he won't abandon any of my brothers and sisters in his quest for their Christlikeness.
Traveling with the Coffeys shaped my view of the Christian life in intangible yet unforgettable ways. My hope in the gospel, as well as my knowledge of the transforming power of the gospel - this sanctification, impacts every day of my walk with God. I hope and pray that these thoughts help to realign your hope with the good news that God the Father is changing lives into His Son's image through His Holy Spirit one day, one obstacle, one interruption, one truth at a time. May God bless you and keep you as you love Him and love others.
Even though I probably have had the least amount of time on team, I feel like I’ve grown so much just by being under the influence of Aaron and Steph and the other team members. They all have encouraged and pushed me to grow spiritually. The influence of Aaron and Steph started way before team though. In 2018, the combination of Aaron’s preaching at my local church and Steph’s truth squares and her conversations with me helped set my heart up for growth through the life change that was going to occur that year. The influence of the team members started before team as well. I had connections with all the team members the fall of their 2018-2019 year. So because of that, I started keeping up to date with them and praying consistently for them. Little did I know that my constant prayers for the team and the Coffey family, would lead me to the team a year later.
My spiritual growth continued through the process of God leading me to the team. I remember so many specific ways in my life personally that Proverbs 3:5-6 was fulfilled, and at the same time, hearing how God was working on the other end with the Aaron and Stephanie extending the invitation for me to join. Before joining team in August 2019, Aaron had us read The Gospel Primer and I know that it opened up my spiritual eyes more than ever before. I saw the Gospel in a whole different way, one that either I hadn’t ever paid attention to before or was something new that I learned! My mind was blown and I was so excited to grow even more with this new spiritual concept that was revealed to me, and I hadn’t even gotten to team yet! I remember how humbled I was when I initially joined the team. I didn’t come right out of college like the others, but I knew I had grown a lot from a hard situation in my life and knew God wanted to use me in a special way.
Coming from a life of teaching full time, everything was always so structured, organized, and ran smoothly because that’s a particular way that God has gifted me. So after joining team as the only new person, I had to swallow my pride of not knowing everything and ask questions. My pride was exposed right away when my structure, organization, or my “ducks in a row” were all stripped away from me! It was sooo good for me though as I got quickly adjusted to team life. I continued to grow when we read Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges together for our team devotions in the fall. I thought I was a pretty good Christian, a rule-follower, and a “good kid.” I got to a point where I was so self-sufficient that I didn’t see my daily sin. That book was such a huge spiritual spanking for me, and there were so many sin areas of my life that were revealed.
Our team devotion times were such a special time for me to hear how God was working in other people’s lives, be encouraged, and grow closer to the team spiritually. This past semester we were working through a book called How People Change and my eyes were opened again in such a huge way. For almost a year and half, I couldn’t call my biggest life’s trial good. I questioned so many things and yes, I accepted it as from the Lord and knew He wanted me to grow, but I didn’t call it good. I didn’t see the entire situation through the lens of the Gospel before. The book really helped me see it through that lense. I remember I was specifically struggling when we were in Matthews, NC. I was struggling with being in the same city as the day I was hurt the most in my life. The pain was unbearable that week as memories came flooding back and my heart was so restless. But the night that Aaron was preaching through Romans 8:28-39 as part of our “Romans 8 Singspiration,” tears flowed down my face as I finally realized that even my hurt, my pain, even the memories, were all considered good and part of God’s story for me. I can trust God in every chapter that He's already written for His redemptive story.
This year has been such a growing year for me, and there is so much more I could say. I’m so thankful for Aaron and Stephanie’s commitment to seeing me grow spiritually. They are not only committed to ministry, but they’re committed to our team as a whole, and to mentor me specifically. I’m incredibly thankful for how tangibly Aaron and Stephanie have shown me Jesus! I’m thankful for the ways that the team members push me to grow as well. Each of the team members have a unique way that God is working in their lives, and watching them grow themselves has challenged me. I am so thankful for five people who were committed to listening, counseling, & praying for me.
I’m so excited for how God will continue to make me more like Jesus as I continue with the Coffey Team in 2020-2021!
These last few weeks have been absolutely crazy for Carol Anne, Asa and me. For those of you who don't know, Carol Anne and I got engaged in November and are planning on getting married on May 8th, right after our time with the Coffey team was supposed to end. However, with the Corona virus flaring up, our plans have had to become very flexible! Since our meetings with the Coffeys are cancelled, we're just biding our time until the wedding (and keeping ourselves busy with a bunch of projects).
A couple things God has taught us during this time- first, He has used it to remind us of what's really important in our marriage. We've had to drastically change what our wedding and honeymoon will look like, and we really struggled with it at first! We were watching everything we've planned and looked forward to for months (seemingly) being taken away. But that forced us to go back to what we should really be thankful for- the way we've watched God lead us together and provide for us along the way! We remembered that we've seen God take care of us in amazing ways before, so we can trust Him even when His plan for our wedding looks different than what we think it should be.
Another, more practical way God has worked through the outbreak is by giving us the extra time to prepare for our move up to South Bend, Indiana. As it was, we were planning on getting married five days after our semester ended, packing all our stuff, and moving to our new house without ever being inside it before. Now that we're not traveling, we actually had a chance to go to both of our houses, pack up all our stuff, and move it all up to South Bend, so that after our marriage we can move up to a ready house! Not only that, but we've had time for projects like painting furniture and fixing up things- projects that would be out of the question if we were still traveling!
In summary, God has used these uncertain conditions to strip away all the distractions that were taking our focus away from God's view of marriage and to graciously give us a chance to make our move up to South Bend a lot smoother, and we're so thankful!
What kinds of questions have you been googling over the last few weeks? "How many people are infected in my area?" "How will this affect the economy?" "How will this affect our government and elections?" "How will this affect my family?" In all of these questions, there is one that affects us more directly, one we have to answer every day. "What am I actually going to do today?"
For me (Riley), the answer to that question has involved a few things. 1) I'm adding a room to my in-laws basement while we quarantine with them. 2) I'm doing a deep-dive study into the book of Romans. 3) I'm playing a ton of Settlers of Catan. God has used each of those things to expose my sin and push me toward His Son. Let me tell you how He did it.
I was in the basement by myself framing a wall with my thoughts wandering from topic to topic when I began to think about one of our games of Catan from the night before. Specifically, I was thinking about one game in particular when I became frustrated with my opponents and my frustration over someone blocking my "Longest Road" exposed just how very much unlike Jesus I am in my heart. As my thoughts continued to wander, I began to think that I should probably apologize to the people I had sinned against. After all, my relationship with them was worth far more than the two points my road would have given me.
But my sinful heart does not naturally humble itself and admit to being wrong. So as my thoughts continued to wander, I began to convince myself that what I did really did not merit an apology. After all, doesn't everyone get frustrated in Catan? It was just a heated competition, that was all. Then a verse came to my mind from my time in Romans over the last couple of weeks.
"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God."
There are a ton of blessings that we have because we are in Christ. Here are some that we commonly think of from a few chapters earlier. We're justified. We have peace with God. We have access to God's grace. We have a joyful hope for the future. Those are probably the first blessings that come to my mind when I think about all that I have in Christ. But that afternoon in the basement, I was thinking about this one: "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God."
As I debated in my mind about whether or not I should apologize, I came to the sudden realization that this was not simply, "should I apologize for an everyday offense." This was actually a battle between my flesh and the Spirit. God has given me the precious gift of His Spirit, and one of the reasons He gave me His Spirit is so that He could lead me toward greater Christlikeness . Without His Spirit, I would be a total slave to my flesh. Simply the fact that there was a battle in my heart was evidence of God's grace in my life. How could I choose to walk in the flesh and choose my sin with God's gracious gift of the Spirit working in real time in my heart?
At the core, I knew my offense wasn't just ordinary, everyday competitiveness. I knew I had chosen to put another believer down because they had the audacity to make a good move against me. In the middle of this, God was working through His Spirit to convict me of sin and to conform me into the image of His Son.
So believers, be encouraged! God is at work in your hearts - even in quarantine. He used a simple game, some down time with a hammer and nails, and His Word to teach me how wonderful His gracious gifts to me are and just how much I need them.
How is God's grace at work in your heart during your time on quarantine?
“Do not be anxious for anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
Faith is hard. It requires believing completely in something (and Someone) you cannot see. It seems easier to believe in people or yourself because you can see them or you at least know what’s going through your mind. But what about the times that you don’t even understand your own thoughts? What about the times people fail you? When doctors can’t fix you or can’t find the problem? When you feel numb and just want to give up? What about faith then?
I desperately need Jesus every day to give me wisdom and grace to influence people's lives for His Kingdom. This year I have been pushed harder than ever in leadership and personal discipleship with the teens, with the team, and with my family. I am thankful that God doesn't give up on me and that God stretches me to be like Christ, because this pushes me to push others in the same way. Aaron has placed me into a leadership role this year. The more and more I try to lead, the more and more I realize my utter need and dependence on the wisdom of God. Thankfully James says that He pours it out liberally to those who ask. I need to ask ALL the time! God has been so kind to me--He takes care of my needs, He gives me great relationships, He gives me opportunities to share His Word, and He even lets me pick some of the fruit! What a great God I serve!
It has been a hard but rewarding semester for our team. We are grateful for the ministry we have had and the growth we have seen in the team. God has promised "that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:" Philippians 1:6.
But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Galatians 4:4-7)
1 John 4:19 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
As our team studies through “Show Them Jesus”, a book on how to weave the empowerment of the gospel into every aspect of our lives, I have been overwhelmed by this one simple fact, that Jesus is a zillion times better! I’ve heard my whole life that the gospel (or the Good News) is more than just the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ and that it applies to my everyday life, but I’ve fallen short when it comes to applying that truth. Whether it’s learning the patience to deal with the group in our kids program or battling to conquer a specific sin struggle, the Gospel alone is enough to remind me of the victory I’ve already received through Christ and the freedom that I now have to love and serve Him.