Archive for the ‘Sanctification’ Category
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Notice that he says in verse 11 that such were some of you. The Corinthians once were these people. They once were living in sin but now through Christ Jesus, they had been saved (1 Corinthians 1:18-25) and the Lord was in the process of making them holy (Hebrews 10:14). If you read 1 Corinthians, this was by far a perfect church. They still had their struggles including one man have an adulterous relationship with his step-mother (1 Corinthians 5). The Corinthians were a divided church (1 Corinthians 1:11-13). The Corinthians were a church that even had drunkenness at their love feasts (1 Corinthians 11:21). This was by far a perfect church (1 Corinthians 3:1-3) and yet Paul called them saints in 1 Corinthians 1:2. They were being made holy.
Sanctification is not always an instant process. My father was a smoker before he was saved in 1952. He instantly stopped smoking. He stopped cursing. He became what 2 Corinthians 5:17 describes. Yet my father was far from perfect and I saw his imperfections up close as a boy and now as an adult. I praise God that my daddy is saved but he is not perfect. None of us are. Our aim, however, must be to become more like Christ. We should not become stagnate in our passion to be holy. My desire is to be just like Jesus (1 John 2:6). I want to be able to say, like Paul, imitate me as I imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
For others, sanctification is a hard road. Some struggle with smoking or drinking before salvation and after salvation are still (and sometimes more so) tempted to go back to those ways. Some just give in and claim this is how they are. Some fight with their own will power but they lose the battle. It is this way with many men I know over sexual sins. Before salvation, they gave into their sinful desires to please their sexual desires but after salvation, they now hate sin but still face daily temptation to sin.
Here is the key: temptation is not a sin. We must see this. If you struggle with sexual sins, drugs, lying, gossip, idolatry, etc., the temptation to do these things is not a sin. We all face temptations. 1 Corinthians 10:13 promises us:
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
Call me naive but I believe this verse. I believe that every sin can be avoided if we look to the promise here. God is faithful, He is able to deliver us. Ponder this for a moment: the last time you sinned, who made you sin? You did! We choose to sin. We choose to give in to our flesh. We are faced with temptation and we give in. God doesn’t make us and in fact, He often is convicting our conscience to not sin, to run from the sin (1 Corinthians 6:18). The Holy Spirit comes and He convicts us of sin (John 16:8) yet at times, we all have rebelled against His warning and sinned. What do we feel after sinning? Shame. Remorse. Failure. Weeping. Just like King David in Psalm 51, we hate our sins and we confess them to God. Amazingly, God is merciful and kind toward us and He does not send us to hell as we deserve the moment we rebel but instead He lovingly convicts and restores just as He did with David through Nathan the prophet (see 2 Samuel 12:1-14).
The pursuit of holiness is not always an easy road. I have been a disciple of Jesus for over 20 years. I still face temptation sometimes on a daily basis. Temptation is not sinful but when I give in to that sin, that is sinful. The hope for us all is that Jesus Christ is our salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). Our salvation is focused entirely upon Him and He is more than able to deliver us from sin. 1 John 1:7 says, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Notice what the command is here to being cleansed from sin: to walk in the light. We walk in the light by walking according to the teachings of Jesus, by focusing entirely upon what Jesus has done for our salvation. This is our hope for redemption both initially when we repent and all through our life as His disciple.
In closing, I don’t begin to try to say that I am a perfect man. Far from it. I am a fallen man like all of you are fallen humans as well. My wife can surely testify to my sins. Yet I pray that we all see that God can help us overcome. This is the miracle of salvation, that God actually does save us from sin and its power (Romans 6:1-12). Galatians 5:16-17 describes our battle with our flesh in terms of a war. This is just what it is. We are at war with Satan and with our flesh but we have a mighty God on our side (Romans 8:31). We can overcome! The grace of God is our strength (Titus 2:11-12 NIV). I pray that today this post will not condemn you in your sins but you’ll see that there is hope in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1-4). Jesus can deliver us from sin and He can help us to be the holy people of God that God calls for us to be (1 Peter 1:15-16). I pray that you’ll look evermore to Him for strength (2 Peter 3:17-18).
I believe the Bible calls us to holiness (Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:15-16) and I believe that we are to pursue holiness for without holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). I believe that the Bible is clear that Jesus came to save us from not just the penalty of sin but also from the power of sin (Matthew 1:21; 26:28; Romans 6:23; 8:1-4, 9-12). I believe that 1 John 3:6-9 clearly shows that we are not to practice a life of sin and in fact, 1 John 2:1 says that we should not sin. I believe that the words of Jesus in John 5:14 and John 8:11 show that we are to forsake our sins. The very nature of repentance is a cosmic change of mind and heart about sin and about the holiness of God. Acts 3:19 makes it clear that repentance involves turning away from sin and 2 Corinthians 7:10 says it produces salvation. Hebrews 10:19-39 makes it clear that we are not to return to a life of sin or thus we crucify the Lord Jesus all over again since we count as unworthy His precious blood to help us overcome sin. 1 Corinthians 10:13 assures us that we can overcome sin by God’s grace. Titus 2:11-12 says that God’s grace given to us in Christ Jesus helps us to say no to sin.
Yet we sin. I sin.
The temptation then is to read the above passages and to try to make them not teach what they don’t seem to teach and that is that God calls His people to pursue perfection. Jesus said in Matthew 5:48 that we are to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. John Wesley defined this as “perfect in love” and not sinless perfection. There certainly is a danger in sinless perfection teaching in that it becomes all about avoiding this sin or that sin but it doesn’t deal with the heart. Further, the focus becomes all on what we do and not on what Jesus has done. Our performance becomes the focus and not the Lord Jesus nor His grace.
Now I am of the opinion that God does not want us to sin. In fact, there is no sin that His blood can not cleanse us from and can help us to overcome. Nothing is as powerful as the blood of Jesus to cleanse and sanctify. Those who believe they are trapped in sin need to hear the good news that Jesus can set them free by His grace. We cannot overcome sin by our own power or discipline. It is only by the grace of God that we can overcome sin. The grace of God can motivate us to be holy and to honor the Lord in all that we say or do (1 Corinthians 10:31). The will of God for us is clear: our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3). God called the children of Israel to holiness (Leviticus 11:44) and He calls us, the saints of the Church, to holiness as well.
However, I know of people who claim to sin everyday. I even wrote a post on Amazon.com about holiness through a book review. I actually had some folks writing about how we can’t be holy and how we sin everyday. They actually looked right at the passages on holiness and the call to forsake sin and said, “Nope, can’t be done. I sin. Therefore, these cannot be obeyed.”
I for one will not do this to Scripture. Simply because I have failed at holiness doesn’t mean that the call to holiness is not real nor does not exist. I must seek forgiveness and I will still pursue holiness. I will not give up. I will not quit. Just because I fall down doesn’t mean that I will now look at 1 John 2:1 and say, “I can’t be holy and so I will stop trying to be holy.” No! I hate sin and I will not stop seeking to be holy.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 ends with Paul the Apostle praying for the disciples and I love what he prays:
23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
Do you pray this for others or for yourself? Do you pray for the Lord to sanctify people completely? I do. I long to be holy and I long for the saints of God to be holy. I pray for the Lord to sanctify myself, my family, and all the Christians that I know. I want to see the people of God honoring the Lord through faithfulness. Paul promises in verse 24 that God will do this. Amen!
Just wanted to give a short post on the subject of receiving the Holy Spirit. Why does God give us the gift of the Holy Spirit when we repent (Acts 2:38)? Jesus promised His disciples in John 14:16-17 that He would send the promised Spirit. Jesus said that the Spirit of truth dwelt with them (in the person of Jesus; 14:6) and He would be in them. John 7:37-39 clearly shows that the Spirit was not in the disciples until after the cross. Many, like myself, believe that John 20:22 is when the Apostles received the Spirit.
In Acts 1:8 Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would enable the disciples to be His witnesses. The Holy Spirit does this in two ways. He enables us to live godly lives for the glory of God (Galatians 5:16-17; Titus 2:11-14). Secondly, the Spirit of God empowers us to boldly preach the Lord Jesus Christ to the lost. We need the Holy Spirit to do effective witnesses for the glory of God. We are not effective witnesses merely because we can debate with an unbeliever. What we need is a godly life filled with the power of God to enable us to live for the Lord and to speak of Him.
Hebrews 12:14 says that without holiness no one will see the Lord (NIV). This is true both in the eternal sense and in the temporal. When we are living a holy life, it shows the salvation of the Lord. Sanctification begins at the new birth (Hebrews 10:10, 14) and yet we are to continue to die to self and to sin (Romans 6:11-23). Ephesians 4:22-24 says:
22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
This can only happen as we trust in the Holy Spirit. This is why we need the Holy Spirit. God does not give us the Spirit merely to give us an emotional experience but He gives us His Spirit to help us to be His witnesses and to glorify His name.
When I first entered college at a conservative, evangelical Bible college in 1993, the school had several policies. One, among many, was that we could not wear blue jeans. We could wear black jeans, red jeans, green jeans, etc. but just not blue jeans. I wore two pair of black jeans for my entire first year. Another weird rule was that we could play sports on Sunday but not keep score. If we kept score we would be guilty of breaking the Lord’s Day. We kept score by using our fingers but not by saying the score out loud. Other rules were we had to attend church on Sunday (even if you had to work, you had to find a way to attend a church service) and we had to have a mandatory “quite time” where we read our Bible and prayed. We had to attend all chapels. We had to keep our hair a certain length above our ears. We had to attend specific churches otherwise we had to sign a statement acknowledging that we were attending a church that the college did not approve.
I know a guy who attended a well-known fundamentalist school in Florida and their rules were stricter than ours. Women had to wear dresses with no makeup. Men had to wear slacks at all times. Ties were optional but favored. They could only use the King James Version, could not study from any other Bible than the KJV and had to attend the local KJV only church near the college. They could have no facial hair, no jewelry. They could not listen to any secular radio stations. They had to practice “biblical separation” from the world and the compromising church.
Legalism kills. Legalism forces you to be concerned with yourself, your works, your morals. It pays little attention to your heart. When I was in college I quickly gained a love for Jesus as He attacked the hypocritical Pharisees. I saw Pharisees all around me. I saw men who could play the parts that the college expected from us but inwardly they didn’t love Christ nor His kingdom. They did all the college asked them to do and yet they didn’t love God. God was viewed by them (and most of us at that time) as harsh, a God who is keeping His books open, ready to convict us of the littlest infraction of His holy law. Our outward works were our focus and not on the gospel of His grace.
Sadly, now the pendulum seems to be swinging the other way. My old school is just like any other college these days. The only exception would be they are still required to attend chapel, to attend a local church of their choosing, and to not be physical with the opposite sex until marriage. Yet gone are the days of the old legalistic rules. In part, of course, I am happy to see this. Legalism doesn’t produce joy. Legalism doesn’t produce righteousness. Legalism doesn’t produce faithful disciples of Christ. Legalism produces death.
Yet so does cheap grace!
I see cheap grace replacing legalism. Instead of the true gospel taking the place of legalism, cheap grace that allows for sin is becoming the norm. True holiness is not produced by works. True holiness is not produced by emotionalism. True holiness is produced by biblical grace but biblical grace doesn’t allow for unchecked sinning (1 John 3:7-8). We are told in Hebrews 10:26-31 to not spurn the Son of God and to think that we can willfully go on sinning against God. The balance of grace sees that our salvation is based on God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8-9) and is finished by His grace (Romans 5:1-11; 1 Peter 1:3-9). Grace enables the passionate disciple of Jesus to see just how great is His love for us (1 John 3:1-3) and to see that He saves us by His own power (Romans 11:6). Further, true grace enables the disciple to overcome sin not by our own will-power but by His overcoming grace (Titus 2:12). There are simply no assurances given to those who are living in sin. In fact, Romans 6:23 makes it clear that the wages of sin is still death.
Cheap grace may give some relief to the guilty conscience but in the end, it destroys lives and destroys people. Cheap grace is just as dangerous as legalism. Both kill. Both are tools of Satan (John 8:44).
My advice is simple: the gospel. The gospel focuses on Jesus. The gospel doesn’t focus on our abilities or our sins or our works. The gospel focuses on the finished work of Christ. The gospel is our defense against the enemy of our souls (Revelation 12:11). The gospel is the truth of God that sets the sinner free to love God, enjoy God, worship God, and obey God. When we see that Jesus is our salvation, that He is our Savior and Redeemer, our hope is not in us but in Him (1 Peter 1:5). Our forgiveness, our righteousness, our security, our intercessor, our head, our shepherd, our Lord and Master – this is our God (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). The gospel is not about what we do but what about what He has done for us (Galatians 3:1-5) and yet this gospel sanctifies us (Acts 15:9). This gospel produces fruit in us by working in us and helping us become more like Jesus (Galatians 5:1, 13-15; Ephesians 5:1-2). The gospel focuses all on Jesus and His works (Galatians 1:6-9). The gospel truly sets us free (John 8:31-38; Romans 8:1). But the gospel also empowers us through the Holy Spirit to be holy (Romans 8:1-4). We are not perfect (James 3:2) but our aim is to be like Jesus (1 John 2:6) but not through blind obedience to laws of men but to submission to the Spirit of God who is making us more like Jesus. We once were vile sinners but by grace, we are now focused on becoming more and more like Jesus our Savior (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). The gospel recognizes that we are always in need of God’s grace. We never get to the point where we don’t need His grace nor His forgiveness. We daily recognize that our salvation is found only in Jesus Christ (John 15:1-11).
I pray that this short post will encourage you to love Jesus, to appreciate just a little more what He has done for us. Jesus alone is worthy to be praised for saving us (Revelation 5:9-10). I pray that we will faithfully preach the gospel of Christ and not the lies of flesh through legalism or cheap grace. The true gospel saves (Romans 1:16-17). The true gospel sets us free.
When it comes to grace, it seems we can swing to either sides of extreme views regarding grace. On the one hand are those who would, in my estimation and I believe in light of the Bible, abuse God’s grace for their sins. Many of these folks are well-meaning people who want to protect salvation by God’s grace and not distort salvation with works so they avoid works altogether to the point of denying that good works flow from a saved life as part of sanctification. They run to passages such as John 6:29 or Acts 15:11 or Acts 16:30-31 but they avoid passages that speak of obedience to Christ as Lord such as Jesus’ commands in the Gospels (see Matthew 7:21-23 or Luke 6:46-49 as examples) or passages such as Acts 5:32 or Romans 1:5 or 1 John 2:3-6 that speak of obedience as necessary for salvation.
Antinomians hold that the moral law has no bearings on the New Testament disciple. They hold that grace is so wonderful, so powerful that a person need only to believe in Jesus once and they are bound for eternity. They hold that obedience to Christ, holiness, bearing fruit, walking in the Spirit, loving God, etc. are all optional and while they are all good, they are not necessary for salvation since we are saved by grace through faith in the Jesus Christ. This salvation is all of grace and none of works and the promises of God are that He will keep us forever (Romans 8:38-39) no matter what. All our sins are forgiven in Christ the moment that we believe the gospel since Jesus died once for all (Hebrews 8:13; 10:10, 14).
There is a certain appeal to antinomian teaching of course. We can still claim to be a Christian while living in outright sin. Many antinomians would decry such a position and would not claim that they hold to that view. Yet this is where their teaching lives. I once had an e-mail discussion with such a teacher. He held to the radical, non-Lordship view that one needed only to believe the gospel once and they were bound for eternity (once saved, always saved). He held that sin, after their initial confession of Christ, has no bearings on that person anymore and they are now free in Christ (Galatians 5:1). He held then that any sin is permissible but not beneficial (1 Corinthians 6:12). I asked him point-blank if any sin was allowed in the life of a disciple and he wrote me back “YES!” and he added, “What joy there is in knowing this!” A couple of books that endorse this view are Charles Ryrie, Balancing the Christian Life, and Bob George, Classic Christianity.
Yet true grace in the New Testament teaches us to say no to sin. Titus 2:11-12 (NIV) says:
11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.
True grace does not give us a “sin no matter what” attitude but true grace points us to salvation in Christ Jesus and teaches us to say no to sin. True grace wants to please our Lord and not ourselves or our flesh. Paul asked the question in Romans 6:1-4:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Because we have been buried and raised with Christ Jesus in His death and in His resurrection, this should cause us to walk in the newness of life. This life is not a life of slavery to sin. Romans 6:6 adds, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” The disciple of Jesus is a slave to righteousness and not sin (Romans 6:18).
True grace understands that we are not perfect (James 3:2) but true grace understands that our source of salvation, our hope for eternal life, our righteousness before God, our security, our redemption, our holiness, our life is found only in Christ Jesus our Lord (John 14:6; 1 Corinthians 1:30-31). True grace runs from sin, not to it (Jude 4). Matthew 1:21 says that Jesus came to save His people from their sins. Many want to be His people but few want to be saved from their sins. Jesus came to set us free from sin.
Think about it. If Jesus came to earth, suffered on the cross for our sins, how can sin no longer be the issue? Sin is what got us here in the first place (Romans 5:12). Sin is what separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). Sin is what brings death (Romans 6:23). God said in Ezekiel 18:4 that the soul that sins shall die. This still holds true today as it held in the time of Ezekiel or the time of David or the time of Adam and Eve. Our only hope to crush sin in our lives in the grace of God given to us in Christ Jesus. His Spirit enables us to crush sin in our lives (Galatians 5:16-17). This is not some sort of self-will power to overcome sin. This is not “pick yourself up by your bootstraps and dust yourself off” but this teaching in the New Testament on grace empowers us to follow Christ, to love Christ, to worship and adore Him in holiness. True grace helps the disciple love God, love His Word, fear Him, hunger for Him, long for His presence, long to honor and please Him in all things (Colossians 1:9-12) and why, because of the gospel of His grace (Colossians 1:13-14). The gospel motivates us to obedience. This obedience is not fleshly or self-labor. This obedience flows from our love for God in light of the gospel. 1 John 3:23-24 says:
23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
We obey Christ in light of the gospel. We do not obey Christ to earn His righteousness or to have favor with Him. We obey Him because of what He has done in saving us (1 John 4:9-10). We obey Him out of love and out of worship and not out of fleshly obedience. We recognize that salvation is accomplished only through Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9) yet we know that God prepares us to obey and serve Him (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:14). Good works flow naturally from our true source for life, the Lord Jesus Christ.
I pray that today we would honor the Lord Jesus Christ through our lives (1 Peter 1:15-16). I recommend Dr. Michael Brown’s book, Go and Sin No More: A Call to Holiness.
One of the best books I have ever read on personal holiness for disciples of Christ is the book by Dr. Michael Brown called, Go and Sin No More. The book has recently been re-released and I want to encourage you to get this book. Dr. Brown writes from a solid, biblical and Arminian perspective on the issue of personal holiness and hating sin. This book will challenge you to be holy as God Himself is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16) and will confront your comfort level with sin. His first two chapters called, “Twenty Reasons Not to Sin” is worth the price of the book.