SANCTIFICATION: MAKING US BETTER -Jamison Kelley

For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
— Romans 7:18-25

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
— Hebrews 4:14-16

Before I was a mother, I knew very little of my need for Christ on a daily basis.  I was a "good person." I knew that wasn't enough to get me into heaven - but I was comfortable with my level of righteousness (insert eye roll, ignorant arrogance). Ignorance is bliss, as they say. Whoever "they" are, they're wrong.

It's not blissful to not be desperate for the life changing and heart transforming love of Immanuel.  It's tragic. Yesterday, we read about how we are justified by faith in Christ. That, sister-friends, is the very best news.  But the good news doesn't stop there! As good and final as that most wonderful news is, it has a sweet subheading, if you will: Sanctification.

Sanctification says that while we are justified through faith in Christ, he doesn't leave us there. God looks on us and sees the righteousness of Jesus. Amen. But what about walking out the rest of our earthly life in this sinful human flesh?  Good news, the sequel, God promises to make us more like Jesus through the Holy Spirit (Ez. 36:27, Phil 2:13, 2 Thess 2:13). All the praise hands.

QUESTION 35. What is sanctification?

ANSWER: Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man, after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.
— The Westminster Shorter Catechism

Now that I am a mother, I am painfully aware on a moment by moment basis of my desperate need for Jesus' saving grace and the powerful work of the Holy Spirit in my heart. I can say with total confidence that being more like Jesus is my deepest and most pressing desire - because I just cannot remain as I am. I cannot be the mom that is quick to anger everyday.

In my experience, motherhood creates an environment where it is utterly impossible for me to succeed on my own.

As mothers, we are tired deep in our bones from years of lack of sleep, emotional and physical trauma, and overall uncertainty of whether we are ruining our kids everyday. In our state of exhaustion in ALL areas of personhood, we are still expected to meet the very demanding needs of our children. And do it with grace and patience so as to point them to the saving grace of Jesus. For we know, they will see him in our actions more than they hear him in our words. Ughhhhhhhh. Go ahead and put me down for FAILURE.

But. No. Motherhood is not just a prescription for feeling like a failure all the time.

Motherhood offers the unique opportunity to be reminded literally ALL the time of our desperate need to be more like Jesus. Motherhood apart from Jesus' easy yoke and light burden is a recipe for disaster. BUT. Motherhood walking in surrendered dependence on a Savior that is able to sympathize and truly CHANGE our hearts, now that is a most beautiful journey. God’s grace to us through Jesus abounds and is sufficient for us in every situation (1 Corinthians 9:8).

 The Kelley Bash Brothers, at a moment of peace. Stephen (almost 2) and Luke (3.5).

The Kelley Bash Brothers, at a moment of peace. Stephen (almost 2) and Luke (3.5).

When I hear my own harsh tone come out of my child's mouth over a tiny inconvenience.  When his words parrot words I have shouted at him, only now he’s shouting at his baby brother... it is heartbreaking on so many levels, but the deepest level is the disappointment I feel with myself.  My sin is coming forth out of the mouths and actions of my children.  I am desperate to do better.  Why can’t I JUST BE PATIENT. I’m trying… truly. I love God’s word and his law and I WANT to follow it, but I just CANNOT. 

 But, let us not give in to despair!  Like Paul in Romans 7, we cannot stop at "Wretched man that I am!" We must see that Christ is our daily deliverance from sin! Jesus knows we cannot do it - that's why he came.  He became like us, so that we could become like him. We cannot will ourselves to be more patient, kinder, or more joyful, but we can ask that Jesus will develop those good fruits in our spirit - knowing he is faithful to carry out that request.  What more could we ever hope to teach our children than our own need for Jesus - and his faithfulness to meet our deepest needs?

Motherhood is not easy, but it is beautiful.  One of the most beautiful pieces of the journey is the pruning, breaking, and rebuilding of our selves.  Of course it’s uncomfortable. Mothering our precious babies strips us to the core of our beings where there is no room left to hide in our facades of self-righteousness. The comfort of thinking we are "good people" is gone because Jesus, help me, no I will NOT give you one more snack before lunch BECAUSE I SAID SO!  Am I right? 

Through the ins and outs of our day, we come face to face with our sinful flesh as our children stretch us to the limits with their needs. What an opportunity to constantly do two things:

1.     Be filled with absolute gratitude that God sees Jesus' righteousness when he looks on us as his adopted children.

2.     Be humbled that Jesus is walking out our days alongside us, and is able and willing to give us all he has promised. If. We. Ask.

Sinners raising sinners is a messy business.  But, we as regenerate mothers can hold onto the hope that we are not stranded in our sin patterns.  Jesus has come to rescue us eternally, but also in the here and now.  He is faithful to his promises, and he is faithful to give all we ask according to those promises (Matthew 7:7-8).  One of which is wisdom.  Let's ask him for wisdom as we mother.  And let's ask him for grace.  For our children.  And, perhaps more importantly, for ourselves: grace to admit we cannot do it alone and then the grace to change through his power. He is the great redeemer, of our souls, and our days.


So this advent season, as we celebrate the coming of baby Jesus - let us remember that that baby grew up to be our Savior that is ever interceding for us and sanctifying us through his grace. Sometimes his grace to us is the joy of the birth of a child. And then his continued grace to us, is how the challenges of raising that child offers us the opportunity to press hard into His grace so that we can become more like him. What a precious gift from our most precious earthly gifts.

 

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION/ APPLICATION:

  1. What in your role as a mother has recently caused you to despair over yourself/ your sin?

  2. Does your struggle to be a "better mom" feel like pulling teeth or being swept up into a dance? How might your mothering look different if you appealed to the spirit instead of your own strength to be more like Jesus?

  3. Spend some time in prayer asking for specific help in the places you feel you are falling short. Praise God for his grace that covers your motherhood and makes change possible.

 
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Jamison Kelley is wife to Michael, a Chick-fil-A operator in Vero Beach, Florida and is mother to Luke (3) and Stephen (almost 2).  Motherhood began one week prior to her first wedding anniversary, and with it came great joys and deep sorrows - including two open heart surgeries for Stephen in his first 4 months, and more to come in his future.  Her boys are wild and amazing - all three of them.  She is passionate about intentional living, authentic community, pursuing truth, and family.  When she does get free time you can find her reading all the books, watching Food Network, or choosing plants at Lowe's to replace the ones that have already perished under her care.  She blogs sporadically at GloryInTheMoment.blogspot.com.