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Monday, third week of Lent

"The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus" - Philippians 4:7

"Composition in Red, Yellow, and Blue" 1930, Piet Mondrian


True peace, dependent on nothing external, and hence wholly steadfast, comes from an inner balance between desire and potential. As long as we hunger for what we cannot have and battle hopelessly against what must always defeat us, we are not at peace. In case this sounds discouraging, the point is that it is not so much that we cannot have all we desire - and more - but that we have to align our desires in the truth. Our spirit is too great for small and specific happinesses: our potential is infinite. The secret of peace is determining where this infinitude is, and here is where the need for balance becomes paramount. In this painting Mondrian has used only three colors and a few black lines, and from their balance created a painting of the most subtle passion. Move a line or modify a rectangle, and the balance is lost and the painting becomes dull.


John Wesley with his brother Charles, might not have used the word balance explicitly, but they did nod to it implicitly. When talking about the "Scripture Way of Salvation" in a sermon by the same title, Wesley would use terms, that by his day in the 1700's were centuries old: Justification & Sanctification. Justification was a word meaning "the act by which the soul is reconciled to God". It's another word for pardon, for the forgiveness of all our sins. The immediate effect of this is "the peace that passeth all understanding", and a "rejoicing in hope of the glory of God" "With joy unspeakable and full of glory".


"And at the same time that we are justified, yea, in that very moment, sanctification begins." (Wesley, Scripture Way of Salvation I:4) He goes on to describe a real and a relative change. Real change in our justification before God; the pardon of all our sins. We are no longer guilty; "there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1) Relative change in our sanctification. This is a word that means "set apart for special use or purpose; to make holy". While we are forgiven and reconciled to God all at once, sin remains even in them that are regenerate...but it no longer reigns.


We may be entirely forgiven, and yet our heart and will are still in the process of being made new. John Wesley writes further:


"It is thus that we wait for entire sanctification; for a full salvation from all our sins, —from pride, self-will, anger, unbelief; or, as the Apostle expresses it, “go unto perfection.” But what is perfection? The word has various senses: here it means perfect love. It is love excluding sin; love filling the heart, taking up the whole capacity of the soul. It is love “rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing, in everything giving thanks.”

(Scripture Way of Salvation, I:9)


All this is brought to completion by faith in Jesus Christ. Faith is a divine evidence and conviction not only that "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself," but also that Christ loved me, and gave himself for me. It is by this faith that we receive Christ; that we receive him in all his offices, as our Prophet, Priest and King. It is by this that He is "made of God unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (I Cor 1:30)

(Scripture Way of Salvation II:2)


The bulk of what we will experience of the Christian life lay in Sanctification, the ongoing process of getting used to our justification. That realization that pardon has come only through the meritorious work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. That this was not only some objective good for the whole world, but that it subjectively applies to me; I am included in that number. And as we wrestle with the reality that God loved me to the uttermost, and I experience the "love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost" (Rom 5:5) then I begin to see myself, my neighbor, even my enemies as someone for whom Jesus died, whom God loves. Pride, anger, self-will and unbelief begin to fall away by degree; both large and small.


The balance...

is that we are entirely forgiven in Christ in an instant, and that we are changed by degree.

is that Christ died for the sins of the world, even mine.

is that we are dust, and incapable of accomplishing lasting change in ourselves...

...let alone the world.

- But -

God breathes life into dust and makes living human beings.

God makes gardens grow up from the earth.

Thanks be to God.

Much of the change we need, is a change of perception. To see the world with new eyes, or as scripture puts it "with the eyes of our heart enlightened".


Prayer:

Sit with this song. Ask God to enlighten the eyes of your heart.



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