The Beauty of Becoming

I’ve returned to Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest this summer. I often pick it up in slower seasons when I can sit with his words that cut to the quick. This man understood how to go higher and deeper with Christ and call others to do the same. Several of the devotions throughout the summer have pointed to the idea of sanctification, or of becoming more like Christ - of becoming holy. The past two days were entitled “Sanctification: The Death Side” and “Sanctification: The Life Side.” One humbles and the other lifts up. One challenges and the other equips. The truth at the center of it - sanctification is both life and death.

This is the truth at the center of John 15 as well. Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

Jesus paints a perfect picture here of the Christian life - a constant dance of death and life - and the celebration and the mourning of both.
 
Chambers said, “In the process of sanctification, the Spirit of God will strip me down until there is nothing left but myself, and that is the place of death… Am I willing to reduce myself down to simply ‘me’? Am I determined enough to strip myself of all that my friends think of me, and all that I think of myself?”

God, our gardener, will continuously prune and repurpose. And it hurts. And we fight it. We think, “Are we really supposed to endure this? Is it supposed to be this difficult?” Yes. He is stripping us of the dead limbs we cling to so fiercely. Whether we gladly give them up, reluctantly let them fall, or tighten our grasp - it’s all a death in some way. It’s all giving up control.
 
But what is his promise in pruning? “...while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” Death gives way to new life.

Chambers continues, “The great wonder of Jesus Christ’s salvation is that He changes our heredity. He does not change human nature - He changes its source, and thereby its motives as well.”

If Christ is the vine and we are the branches, our position is permanent. We have been grafted in - as sons and daughters. To be a Christian is to be connected to the source of life. So when everything we hold dear is gone, when what we were so sure of has been stripped away, when our last lifeline fails, we open our eyes to find that we are still very much alive. And that our empty places, our severed limbs, our barren spots have become perfect ground for new life.
 
Chambers concludes, “Sanctification is an impartation, not an imitation. Imitation is something altogether different. The perfection of everything is in Jesus Christ, and the mystery of sanctification is that all the perfect qualities of Jesus are at my disposal.”

The only option is to sink deeper. The only way is to lean back. When we finally let go, when we give in to the pruning, only then can we see our sin and idols and shame and striving for what they are - limbs on the ground that were dead all along. Then we look at the new life growing all around and wonder, “Can this be real? Did he really exchange beauty for ashes?” Yes. When the unbearable death of sanctification overwhelms, sink deeper into the source of life and the glorious hope of who you are becoming in Christ.

Dear Lord,

Thank you for pruning me. I’m sorry for fighting it and frustrating the process. I pray for perspective and hope when it feels like everything I hold dear is being stripped away. Thank you for the new life you bring. Thank you for being my Source of life. Amen.

 
Author | Claire Jordan

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