Counting the Cost: When Sanctification is Painful and Confusing

By: ALEX SHIPLEY on | Comments: 0
Before continuing on with this article, I suggest you go and read C.S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity, or at least for the purpose of this article flip to Book IV and read Chapter 9 titled “Counting the Cost”. 

Most of us, when we were saved, did so because we recognized a need. We recognized we were sinners, feeling that weight of that sin in our hearts, and realized we needed a remedy, a great Healer, and that was and is Jesus. Once we’re saved we fully expect Him to fix us and to continuously fix us as we continuously fail. As we sin again and again, as we fall from time to time, we look to Him to pick us up, help us learn, and to fix us where we were broken. That is in fact what a healer does, right? They make you better. 

Lewis doesn’t deny this aspect of Christianity or of God, but points out that Jesus said before we became Christians we were to, “count the cost, ” referring to Luke 14:28 which says, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” (ESV). 

But did we count the cost? Christianity isn’t about being fixed over and over again until we’re finally in paradise. If that’s the case then we will never learn, grow, serve, and desire God for anything more than a quick and temporary fix. He’s not Tylenol or, as Lewis puts it, when our tooth hurts we don’t just get something to numb the pain. We go to the dentist to solve the problem itself, not just to prevent something like that from happening again, but it actually looks and feels better. Being a Christian is about being made new, being made different, and being made more like our Father in Heaven. But did we understand what that process would look like when it began, what it would feel like, and what He would ultimately do in order to get us there? Probably not. And that’s why the pain and struggle of sanctification, the process of being made holy, is so confusing to us. We don’t understand what God is doing in our lives to make us like Him and why it sometimes comes with growing pains, struggles, and fear. 

God is satisfied with nothing less than pure perfection. The Christian might say, “How can I be perfect when the Bible says that I can do no good apart from Him and that I am in fact a sinner? I will always fail. How can I be perfect when He says I can’t be?” Well Christian, you’re right. Lewis points out that it is not perfection completed by our own work or will that He expects, but rather because He is perfect, He is the only one who can work out and complete perfection in us. Even though our effort will get us nowhere on our own, God expects us to walk towards Him in faith and trust and He will carry us the rest of the way. 

Lewis says, “This Helper [God], who will, in the long run, be satisfied with nothing less than absolute perfection, will also be delighted with the first feeble, stumbling effort you make tomorrow to do the simplest duty”. 

He then presents an analogy of believers as a living house, which he attributes to a writer named George MacDonald. He writes:
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

Before becoming Christians, we were completely separated from Him. We were sinners and broken, just as we continue to be now, but before Him we had no hope. To use the living house analogy, the house was abandoned. No one was living inside able to peel away the bubbled, water damaged, wallpaper; dust off the cobwebs stretched from wall to wall and corner to corner; fix our damaged, leaky pipes, dripping with murky, brown, water; or repair the bones of the house that ache and groan with every gust of wind. And we couldn’t fix it on our own.

Then, when we were saved, God opened the door of our hearts and instead of grimacing at the horrific sight of it all or sighing at the amount of work that had to be done, He simply got to work. For most builders or house repairers, when the job is complete they pack up their tools, wipe the sweat from their foreheads, and with a satisfied feeling in their bellies they step outside never to return until the next problem arises. But God decides to lay up residence among the debris and keep working. Where others would say, “we have another job to go to” or “that’s just a waste of time”. He begins to design, add on, and make the space beautiful, not just livable or good enough. 

Because, you see, He isn’t satisfied with fixing us up and leaving us where we are. He’s an architect who wants to build something magnificent. In other words, something from nothing. While He does remedy us He’s also sanctifying us for the purpose of holiness and godliness. To us, the process of kicking down walls to build on and redoing those scraped up floors is confusing and painful to us at the moment, as we’re unable to see what He’s doing or what He hopes to accomplish at the end of it all. We haven’t seen the blueprints and we probably wouldn’t understand them even if we could. This extra work isn’t what we asked for. But, He’s determined to make something better, changing and redecorating every space of our hearts to look more like Him. 

In fact, instead of repairing our leaky pipes with a temporary fix or even replacing the pipes all together, He builds strong, enduring pipes and fills them with new water. No, not just new water - living water. He knows it’s not what we asked for, or even thought we needed, but it’s what He promised when we became His. And while the job is never complete while we’re here on earth, He’s so committed and in love with His own work, that as Lewis describes, God decides to dwell in us forever as He continues and completes His work. 

Lewis ended the chapter with this, 

“The command Be ye perfect is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were ‘gods’ and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him - for we can prevent Him, if we choose - He will make us the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now image, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful, but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said.”

So even when that pruning process is painful, trust that He’s doing it not just for your good, but for the good of the Kingdom. The process of sanctification, being made holier and more like Him, is painful and scary at times, but without His work we would not grow or come to love Him for who He is - The Healer. The Builder. The Vinedresser. The Architect. The King of Kings who dwells within our hearts equipping us for His work on earth and preparing us for a world we have not yet seen.
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GiveSendGo Team?s Favorite Bible Verses

By: ALEX SHIPLEY on | Comments: 0

Hebrews 13:5 - “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” 

All through my life I have been reminded by that verse that even when God seemed far, or life was hard , God is faithful. That He will not leave or forsake me. Even when sometimes I feel I don't deserve His love.

Ephesians 6:12 - “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."

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Deuteronomy 32:4 - “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.”

Isaiah 41:10 - “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Romans 12:2 - “Do not be conformed to this world,[a] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

The Old Testament gets a bad rep sometimes, but even then God's love has always been present and may be strict but always for our good! These verses help remind me that even when things get tough, or scary that God is always with us and is our rock and to focus on what he's accomplishing through us for His Mission. 

Psalms 103:1-5 - “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”


Psalm 119:11 - "I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you." 

Years ago the Lord gave me an amazing insight into all of Psalm 119. Since Jesus is the Word made flesh, when I reread Psalm 119 and replace each occurrence of "law, Word, commands,"etc, with "Jesus" the whole chapter exploded with new meaning, fresh passion for Jesus, and a deeper appreciation of all He has done for me. Verse 11 not only says to me, "I have hidden Jesus in my heart that I might not sin against you" but it also showed me that the more hidden he is within me, the more pronounced and open he is in my life for others to see.


Colossians 1:13-14 - “??For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Honestly, all of Colossians chapter 1 is probably my favorite and reminds me of just who God is, but these two particular verses also remind me of who I am without Christ - a sinner, broken, wicked, and unable to do good without Him. And it’s not because of me that I was saved or allowed into the kingdom of heaven. No, HE rescued me from darkness and transferred me into the kingdom of His beloved Son because it is through him and because of him that we have redemption and can be forgiven. Reconciliation was and is only possible through the work of Jesus on the cross and without him I am unable to build or maintain any other relationship he’s blessed me with on Earth. That’s what this verse reminds me of every time I read it. 


John 3:21 - “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”
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Spiritual Disciplines: Be Enthralled With the Good Portion

By: ALEX SHIPLEY on | Comments: 0
If you’re like me you love podcasts of all kinds. Christian podcasts, scripted fictional podcasts, and sometimes even a good true-crime podcast will keep me entertained for hours on end while I complete day-to-day tasks around the house. 

But if you’re also like me, you’re terrible at disciplining yourself, especially with spiritual disciplines. It’s easy to start disciplining yourself and then fall off the wagon within a few weeks of thinking you’ve mastered the art of whatever discipline you're practicing. This can be incredibly discouraging and often leads us to give up disciplining ourselves altogether. 

Podcasts and spiritual disciplines probably mean nothing to you together, but I promise it will all make sense. 

This week I listened to the Podcast “Let’s Talk” starring Melissa Kruger, Jackie Hill Perry, and Jasmine Holmes. The episode was called, “Spiritual Disciplines in Busy Seasons”. Although their style is very much like an open discussion, I believe they offered some really great insight into practically putting into motion spiritual disciplines especially when our day-to-day lives seem to get in the way.  

Their discussion was so good this blog is probably going to be 80% counsel from them, but I hope what they have to say, in addition to a couple other resources, and what is contributed by me will be helpful to you. 

Another resource I will be referencing is a book called The Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney, which was also mentioned in this episode of “Let’s Talk”, and was a book I read back in college. It’s also the book my church is currently going through during our Wednesday night bible study at church (things have a way of just working out, don’t they?) 

First off, what are spiritual disciplines? In his book, Whitney lists out the following: Bible intake, prayer, worship, evangelism, service, stewardship, fasting, silence and solitude, journaling, and learning as spiritual disciplines. Whitney said, “Spiritual disciplines are those personal and corporate disciplines that promote spiritual growth.” So, many others could be added to this list, but these are great to get down first! 

I, just like you’re probably thinking right now, didn’t know half of those disciplines even existed, but each of them equip us to grow in our relationship and walk with Christ. Don’t worry though, my goal isn’t to give you a paragraph on each discipline and leave you on your merry way (you’ll have to read Whitney’s book for that), but rather to show you how spiritual disciplines are best applied in general and what obstacles stand in our way of practicing said disciplines. 

For instance, an obstacle we face is the weight of discipline. It’s hard and sometimes because we have not been taught how to be disciplined so we end up just chasing our tails. Oftentimes we are weighed down by the pressure and the work that is disciplining ourselves in general whether that’s eating right, working out, waking up early (I feel a little called out with this one), or getting ourselves on a routine of any kind. It’s painful, hard work, and not so fun especially in those beginning days, weeks, and months. The same is true for spiritual disciplines. 

“When we talk about spiritual disciplines, the goal isn’t misery,”  said Kruger. “The goal is a soul that works right.” She later added,“Sometimes we think that it should feel good every time and that’s what actually makes us stop from doing it.” 

If there’s anything that rings more true in my life, it’s that comment right there. So the encouragement is to press on. Keep disciplining yourself even though you may not feel so “spiritual” or as on top of things as you may think you should feel. The goal is more than just practicing any discipline, the goal is Jesus himself. 

John 15:5 says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” 

Jesus is more interested in your heart than he is with how perfect your discipline may be. All he asks is that you abide in Him and he will do the same, giving you the strength and the wisdom to press on.

Spiritual disciplines are non-negotiables because “God demands our heart and our mind” as Jasmine Holmes explained. It is that abiding in Christ that brings us to a place of need for Jesus, not where we simply cross something off of our to-do list, but as Holmes described it - to a place where we feel like we could not survive without that intimacy and daily intake of Christ. In doing so we must guard ourselves from tendencies of pride and legalism. 

“I choose to remember that I’m doing this to know a person. I’m reading so I can know a person, I’m praying so I can speak with a person,” Perry added. “So, when it becomes about intimacy, and knowing Jesus, and doing the things you need to do so you can grow in your love for Jesus then you actually get distracted because now you’re not even thinking about yourself enough to say, ‘oh, I’m doing this so I can be this person.’ It just literally becomes about Jesus at that point.”

Because, as Whitney and these women warn us, spiritual disciplines can easily be driven by idols. Our “discipline” can become legalism, a means of people-pleasing, and an act of shame without the joy that is getting to know the person who is Jesus. They listed things like unbelief, self-sufficiency, ambition, pride, and busyness as additional idols that keep us from growing in our relationship with Christ. 

They brought up an interesting point that shame and despair (of feeling as if we have failed at being spiritually disciplined) often shuts us down to the point of not doing anything, never trying to discipline ourselves, and never reaching out to Christ for help or for that relationship. It’s the ever-hungry void that feeds on Satan’s lies and our stagnancy. It feels like overwhelmingly heavy chains that keep from our passion to draw near to Jesus. 

“The cure is the thing that you’re running away from, because the more that you learn about God, the more you learn about who He is, the more you learn about who He loves the less opportunity despair has to take root in your heart,” said Holmes. “So, just keep in mind that shame can be a tool of the enemy to keep us from going to God. It turns into the very thing that’s going to heal you is the thing that you think is going to destroy you, but that’s how Satan has always worked.”

“Underneath the despair are some idols,” Perry explained. “It should be concerning to you or alarming to you if you can continue your day-to-day life without any spiritual disciplines. That should alert you to where am I that this doesn’t concern me that I haven’t met with God, that I haven’t read his Word. I claim to say that I’m in a relationship, but I’m not doing the things that will help the relationship grow and flourish.” 

Kruger even suggested that sometimes our Christian actions can actually keep us from knowing Jesus. I think everyone, myself definitely included, is guilty of this to some degree. Sometimes our people-pleasing, busyness, and even our service in the name of God can look Christian. Service is important and is a spiritual discipline, but if we aren’t actually spending any time with God in our personal lives and the motives for our Christian service are sour, then our discipline is without real purpose. It’s all hollow if Christ isn’t who we’re running to through our spiritual disciplines. A passage Kruger, Holmes, and Perry brought up really speaks into this sin and comes from Luke 10: 38-42. 

It says, “Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’”

Martha, although thinking that her busyness, her work, and her people-pleasing was righteous and justified, missed out on the intimacy that was sitting at the feet of Jesus. Mary set her priorities from the beginning, deciding that the most important thing in that moment was to treasure and soak in every word of the Messiah. 

We often miss out on the best portion, that intimacy with Jesus, and the joy of knowing and learning more about our God because the idols ruling in our hearts tell us what’s more important. “Our goal of spiritual disciplines is not to be perfect, we already lost that a long time ago,” Kruger said. “Our goal is to have a pattern of life that’s growing towards God.” 

So be enthralled with the good portion, with Jesus himself. See spiritual disciplines not as a chore, but as a means to know your Father in heaven who commands your heart and your mind to Him. 
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