Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sanctification or "Growing up to be like Jesus"

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. ~John 17:17
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. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. ~1 Thessalonians 5:23,24

When one becomes a Christian and receives the gift of eternal life, it is soon realized that perhaps one's current lifestyle may be out of sync with God's Word. None of us are living our lives in perfect harmony with the Scriptures when we are saved and there are even some who aren't doing so well years afterwards. God sees into every area of our lives and if it is contradictory with His Word, He has a plan for it. It is called sanctification.

Pastor's message this past Sunday was about God's sanctification in our lives. God means to set us apart from sin for Himself with the final objective of making us like Jesus. Here are the main points Pastor made in his message from 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
  1. A work of God
  2. A progressive work
  3. An inside/out work (God aims for our heart)
  4. God uses everything that happens to us
  5. It requires your cooperation
So then, what does it mean to be made like Jesus? To be sanctified is to be made holy...

For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:7

Holiness, purity, morality, sanctity and chastity; sometimes it seems words like these are from somewhere in the distant past. Our society and the world at large have come to believe these words, and their applicability to our lives, are becoming outdated. No longer is there a public call to a holy and pure lifestyle. Our young people are no longer urged by society to live a clean and chaste lifestyle; in fact one of debauchery and promiscuity is encouraged. No part of our culture's slide down into the muck of obscenity is an excuse for the Christian to take part in it. We must remember God has called us in holiness.

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; ~1 Thessalonians 4:3-5

God's will is we should abstain from the impure and unholy lifestyle of the world around us. Whether married or single, old or young, we are all called to live this Christian life as examples of holy living we are meant to be reflections of Christ. Holiness and purity are not chains meant to bind us from pleasure or weights to drag us down, but a means to find true freedom and liberty. This is what the process of sanctification is for, it is a work of God beginning on the inside meant to work its way out in our daily living. Oh, and by the way... it doesn't come without a struggle.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? ~Romans 7:21-24

The Apostle Paul was no stranger to the process of sanctification. Here in the seventh chapter of Romans he describes the struggle which goes on inside every Christian, the struggle between living life in a God pleasing and God honoring way and living in obedience to our old sinful nature. It is a war in which we alone are ill equipped to fight. This sort of warfare, if fought on our own, will quickly lead us into despair so that we would cry with Paul “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Pastor pointed out Sunday there is good news...

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! ~Romans 7:25a

Our sanctification is primarily a work of God. Victory over the influence of our old sin nature is a task accomplished by God and worked out through our obedience to His Word. That is what Pastor meant in his last point about sanctification requires our cooperation. God's Word calls us to live a certain way and as we struggle to obey it, we find we fall short and need Christ to intercede on our behalf. As we come to Him seeking His strength to change and obey, God's Spirit uses the Word to enable us to do that which we could not do on our own. We are changed incrementally over time as we behold that true perfection Christ.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. ~2 Corinthians 3:18

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