by Lisa McHeard
According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
1 Peter 1:2 ESV
Sanctification is the process by which God grows us to be more like Christ. He directs and guides us by the Holy Spirit, through his Word; intending to rub off our rough edges and sinful ways. It’s not always pleasant. In fact, it can be pretty painful, and we don’t always want to deal with our own shortcomings. So, to protect ourselves, we latch onto aspects of other lives that just don't meet our muster. We push, prod and bully others, albeit with the best of intentions (or so we tell ourselves), in the hope of taking the focus off our own failings. We force our way into areas that are none of our concern and begin to believe that effecting change in someone else's life is our responsibility, since after all, we are certainly more spiritually mature then they are. In fact, judgement of others becomes so ingrained in us that we begin to trespass in Holy Spirit territory without hesitation – and that’s a dangerous place to tread!
It should go without saying that we have no right to judge others to avoid dealing with our own sin. Our propensity to interfere with God’s holy work in someone else’s life just complicates the process of their sanctification. Our unsolicited advice becomes a stumbling block. Our pompous opinions sting. It’s the Spirit of the Living God that convicts, contends, and consecrates. It's best that we leave the difficult business of exacting holiness in the lives of others to holy, holy, holy him.
And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
Isaiah 6:3 ESV
Our energy is better utilized attending to our own lives and our own sloppy wickedness. A little time spent accessing the tiny sins we’ve let creep in is never wasted. Prompt attention on the ones we’ve let grow into outright sinful habits is imperative. We need to ask ourselves frequently if we are truly cooperating with the Spirit of God as he moves us toward Christlikeness, rather than concentrating on others because we want to avoid his prompting toward repentance of our own.
When God saves us, he owns us. He alone has the power to shape and mold us. Only he knows the beginning and end of our journey, along with all the missteps and stops in between. Others may not be able to see us wrestling with the Holy Spirit as he works on our self-justified trespasses, but before long, they will be able to see the outward ugliness of our attempts to avoid his discipline by concentrating on someone else’s sin.
Holy Father, forgive me when I choose to focus on the speck in my neighbor’s eye because it would hurt too much to deal with the plank in my own. Please give me the courage to face my own shortcomings and failures, so that you can help me overcome them for your glory. Lord, trip me up the next time I try to trespass where I have no right to go.
Lisa McHeard serves as Women’s Ministry Coordinator for the New York State Presbytery of the PCA. She loves writing and is presently completing a devotional on the Gospel of Mark. Lisa is married to Ken McHeard, senior pastor of Duanesburg Reformed Presbyterian Church, where she serves joyfully at his side.