We have been discussing the doctrine of salvation.
Last time we began our conversation on sanctification; and today we continue on.
As we said last time, sanctification is a vital part of the Christian life.
Many are talking today about conversion, and “coming to Jesus,” but not many pastors talk much about sanctification. All that matters, in practice, is “becoming a Christian.” There is a massive emphasis on being born again, but very little talk in the area of increasing, personal holiness.
However, we mentioned last time that true, saving faith will always result in a life that is increasingly conforming into the image of Jesus. It is a person who is completely devoted to follow Jesus in all of His teachings.
Again, there are many who think you merely need to say a prayer, or raise a hand in a service, or conform to certain behaviors of a church culture. And when they do this, they think it is evidence they have been truly saved.
They have experienced emotion in worship times.
They have experienced connections with other Christians during prayer times.
They have experienced friendship, and acceptance, within a community group.
But none of that is sanctification, nor is it evidence that one has been truly converted.
And yet, on the other side of the spectrum, others are content to simply say they believe in Jesus, and yet, nothing ever changes in their life. This is that “cheap grace” we have been talking about.
They’ll take the death of Jesus to cover their sin, but they have little to no interest in actually following him, other than to state their profession of “believing in Him.”
But again, this is not sanctification, nor is it the mark one has been truly converted.
Indeed, it is evidence to the contrary.
So as we have been saying, true Christianity necessitates true sanctification. That is our point, and that is the point of these episodes.
Last time we begin by looking at the terminology the Bible uses for sanctification; and so today we want to talk about some additional items that are related to this doctrine.
When it comes to sanctification, the mind-set is central.
Now from God’s perspective; the Scriptures are clear that God is the ultimate worker behind the heart’s inclination.
1 Kings 8:57-58 “May the LORD our God be with us, as He was with our fathers; may He not leave us or forsake us, that He may incline our hearts to Himself, to walk in all His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His ordinances, which He commanded our fathers.”
Psalm 119:36 - “Incline my heart to Your testimonies And not to dishonest gain.”
Yet from man’s perspective; we are expected to set our minds in the right direction. There is no sense of passivity in our sanctification. It always starts in the mind/heart.
We see this in the OT:
Joshua 24:23 - "Now therefore, put away the foreign gods which are in your midst, and incline your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel."
1 Chro. 22:19
We see this in the NT:
We see that there is a need for the renewing of the mind (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23).
Rom. 12:2 - “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Eph. 4:21-24 “But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”
Along with this, there is a need to properly understand oneself (Rom. 12:3; Phil. 2:3).
There is a need to practice setting your mind on proper objects (Rom. 8:5-13; Col. 3:2).
Rom. 12:3 - “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”
Phil. 2:3-7 “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself…”
There is a need to help others to set their minds on proper things.
In fact, there are many passages that use the term noutheteo, which literally means ‘to put in mind,’ and speaks of instruction, admonishment, warning, and counseling.
(Acts 20:31; Rom. 15:14; 1 Cor. 4:14; Eph. 6:4; et. al.)
Sanctification; and the place of fear and faith.
“The fear of God is the soul of godliness… We are advised that what the Scripture regards as knowledge or wisdom takes its inception from the apprehension and emotion which the fear of God connotes. If we are thinking of the notes of biblical piety, none is more characteristic than the fear of the Lord… Lest we should think that the religion of the OT is in this respect on a lower level, and that the NT rises above that which is represented by the fear of the Lord, we need but scan the NT to be relieved of any such misapprehension… The fear of God in us is that frame of heart and mind which reflects our apprehension of who and what god is, and who and what God is will tolerate nothing less than total commitment to him” (John Murray, Principles of Conduct).
There are many passages: Matt. 10:28; Lk. 12:4-5; Acts. 9:31; Rom. 11:20-21; 2 Cor. 7:1; Col. 3:22; Heb. 4:1; 1 Pet. 1:7.
Matt. 10:28 - “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
2 Cor. 7:1 - “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
1 Pet. 1:7 - “so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
The point, though, is that faith is not merely something we exercise once, to enter salvation. Rather, faith is a continuous process that we are commanded to practice, day-by-day, moment-by-moment.
J. Barton Payne, rightly notes that “successful ethics cannot exist independently of faith in the redeemed of God… Genuine faith cannot long exist independent of ethic commitment…” (Payne, Theology of the Older Testament).
“We must be thoroughly aware that in shifting from justification to sanctification we are not withdrawing from the sphere of faith… Christian activity is certainly not to be excluded, or belittled, or condemned: but if this activity is to be sound it must never be severed from its relation to the mercy of God…. The doctrine of the work of the Holy Spirit is designed precisely to prevent us from viewing man as an independent, dynamistic unit. This doctrine does not make man self-sufficient, but rather underlines his perpetual and inherent lack of self-sufficiency… All views which end up with some simplistic theory of regeneration will deprive us of the wonderful mystery of the work of the Holy Spirit--- wonderful because it turns man from a study of his own condition to the life of faith in which he feeds on God’s grace alone and seeks to continue in the sanctification he has received… Faith is the pivot on which everything revolves. Faith, though not itself creative, preserves us from autonomous self-sanctification and moralism… for progress in sanctification never meant working out one’s own salvation under one’s own auspices; on the contrary, it meant working out one’s own salvation with a rising sense of dependence on God’s grace” (Berkouwer, Faith and Sanctification).
Sanctification; and the centrality of love.
“The theme of love is particularly characteristic of the Johannine literature. As a desirable Christain virtue it has its roots in God’s love for his Son… On many occasions he [Jesus] pointed out that love for himself was to be a motive for ethical behavior. There can be no doubts that the new life as Jesus conceived it centered on love...Moreover, man’s love for God comes more to the fore in the epistles than in the gospel as a motive for the Christian life… They [the love passages of 1John] set a high target, but are not expected for that reason to deter people from reaching towards it. Indeed, for Christians, loving is not an option but an obligation” (Guthrie, NTT).