Sanctification 103: The Holy Spirit & Me

This third blog about sanctification has one simple point: Everything was imagedone by Jesus, not so that you could do nothing, but so that you would desire and be able to do something.

That “something” is gospel-inspired, spirit-empowered, pursuit of righteousness and fight against unrighteousness.  The purpose of this pursuit is, ultimately, satisfaction in God.  I would agree with John Piper whose life is devoted to the belief that: God is most glorified when I am most satisfied in Him.  In other words, satisfaction in God and glorification of God are intimately connected.

I believe that obedience, which begins with believing the gospel, is the greatest way to glorify God AND be satisfied. I  agree with Jesus who said in John 15 that abiding in Him, through obedience to His commands, results in joy.  Sadly, calling people to pursue obedience is rarely perceived as having to do with experiencing joy in Jesus. On the contrary, many  characterize such calls as guilt-trips or recipes for legalism.  It must be possible to call people to “make every effort” to obey Jesus commands.  If not, Peter, Paul, James, and even Jesus seem to have been wrong, or at least, woefully insensitive.

To be clear, those who are in Christ have been “made” righteous by His obedience (See Romans 5).  Said another way, the reason we are righteous is because Jesus died FOR us. BUT…the reason we can pursue godliness is because Jesus lives IN us. And this is where the conflict ensues.  Even if we agree that we are all meant to “mature in Christ”, exactly how that happens is still in question. One of the great points of contention regarding progressive sanctification is the role of men versus the role of the Holy Spirit. How much am I “doing” and how much is He doing?

What if it is both?  I don’t mean some kind of 50/50 relationship, more like 100/100.  What if the Spirit gives us desires AND we must act on those desires? What if the Spirit gives us energy  AND we have to spend it? What if the Spirit gives us gifts AND we have to use them? What if the Spirit gives us paths to escape temptation AND we have to take them?  What if the Spirit gives us tools to mature in Christ AND we have to pick them up? This seems to be what Paul means when he says:

Philippians 2.12 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

The same grace that saves us is the same grace that moves us.  Grace does not give us permission to do nothing.  It gives us comfort when we fail at what we do and humility if we succeed. The pursuit of holiness is not about performing to impress God or others; it is about progressing in our affection toward God and others.

We don’t just sit and wait for the Holy Spirit to act upon us.  If He is in us, we should possess a desire to pursue holiness–to grow up in Christ. And while we cannot control how fast or well we grow, we can waste the grace we’ve been given. I believe the Holy Spirit works through the tools of grace  God has given us (See Sanctification 102).

  1. The Holy Spirit cries out “Daddy” and reminds us of our identity as a child of God through meditation on the gospel
  2. The Holy Spirit teaches to us through reading God’s Word of God, revealing who God is and what His will for us is.
  3. The Holy Spirit speaks for us to God in prayer,  helping us to commune with our heavenly Father so we can  live for Him.
  4. The Holy Spirit comforts us when we sing praises to Jesus, reminding us of who He is and what He has done for us
  5. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our disobedience and helps us resist temptation and pursue obedience.
  6. The Holy Spirit ministers to us through His presence in the hearts and hands of those in the body–to heal and strengthen.
  7. The Holy Spirit directs us to go on mission and empowers, equips , and enables us accomplish his work there.

We grow in grace when we engage with it.  And we engage with it, or at least desire to,  when we experience it in salvation. Paul says it well:

1Corinthians 15.10 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

Let us not waste God’s grace toward us.  Let us work hard for Christ  by the grace that is our sin Christ–for His glory and our joy.


Sanctification 102: The tools and how they work

Our sanctification began before CREATION. According to His purposes, to imagethe praise of His grace, God SET APART a people to be saved from sin.  Sanctification is completely accomplished  (IN OUR SOULS) through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, increased throughout life in our flesh by the Spirit (IN OUR BODIES) , and completed at Jesus’ return.

There some argument over prepratory sanctification, minimal argument over positional sanctification, and a lot of argument over progressive sanctification.  Essentially, there is a lot of confusion about how we grow in our holiness if Jesus has already made us holy.  It is true that God demands our holiness.  That is why he sent His Son to be a substitute for us–he produced the holiness I needed through a sinless life and paid the penalty for the unholiness of my sin.

God demands perfection, that is why He gave us His substitute. But God also commands holiness, that is why He gave us His Spirit.

We have been placed IN CHRIST through union with Christ.  This is something God has done.  It is something that does not change regardless of what we do or don’t do.  Our position is secure now and in eternity.  We are God’s adopted children, heirs with Christ, never to be forsaken or separated from God’s love.

But, even if your UNION with Christ cannot change (for better or worse), our COMMUNION with Him can.  We are IN CHRIST, but we can MATURE IN CHRIST.  Our relationship with Jesus can grow in its intimacy, sanctity, and joy.   In other words, everything was done by Jesus, not so that you could do nothing, but so that you would desire and be able to do something.  That something is a gospel-inspired and spirit-empowered pursuit of holiness in our bodies (lives).

The reason we are righteous is because Jesus died FOR us. The reason we can pursue holiness is because Jesus lives IN us.

The “putting off” of the old self/sin, as Paul writes in Colossians 3, is called MORTIFICATION.  The “putting on” of the new self/righteousness, is called VIVIFICATION. Mortification describes the lessening influence of sin in our lives, and the vivification describes the increasing influence of Jesus in our lives.   Neither of these establishes or affects our position in Christ which has been secured by Christ.  On the contrary, they flow from a deep belief in that position.  We do not resist unholiness and/or pursue holiness believing God loves us when we succeed or hates us when we fail. Rather, our pursuit of holiness is inspired by the gospel which declares I am accepted based on Jesus obedience, not mine.  This pursuit is not out of a desire to be loved more, but out of a desire to love God, and others, as He has loved me…more.

A pursuit of holiness is not merely a response to God’s grace, it is the effect of it.

How does this happen? How do we resist unholiness and pursue holiness? First, it begins by meditating on grace. The same grace that saves us from legalism (believing that my obedience to the law saves) is the same grace that saves us from lawlessness.  Paul writes in Titus 2.11-14:

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

But how do we engage this grace?  How does grace “train u to renounce” ungodliness?  Is this just an cerebral endeavor?  I believe that what should always begins in the heart and continues with a setting of the mind (See Colossians 3) should, and will, flow out into the hands.  And God has given us tools through which we can experience the grace of Jesus.  Some of these include:

GRACE FROM PRAYER THROUGH JESUS (Ephesians 6.18; Phil 4.6)
GRACE FROM WORSHIP OF JESUS (Ephesians 5.18-20; Col.3.16-17)

Even if these tools do not change Jesus affection for us, they will change our affections for Jesus.  They will help us become in practice what we already are in position.

This requires effort as seen in Ephesians 4, Romans 8, Colossians 3, 1Peter 1, 2Peter 2, and any number of other letters which call us to strive, put off, put on, and make every effort.   Without question, we are not to live by works, but we will work if we are really alive! (See James 2).

Effort is not wrong.  It is not wrong to work to be moral.  It is not wrong to work hard doing good.  It is not wrong to work at learning more about God.  It is not wrong to work at being a better husband/wife.  It is not wrong to work to live more like Christ.  It is wrong to believe that your efforts are meritous in nature.

Effort for the the purpose of meriting favor is condemned.  But effort that is driven by the gospel is a commanded.

And remember what an old Puritan said…”For every look you take at your sanctification, take two looks at your justification.”  Suffice to say…we must look at our sanctification…but there is an important order to things.

Sanctification 101: The Different Kinds

For the last several Wednesdays, our church has been spending time sanctifyexploring the theological concept of sanctification.  Simply stated, the idea behind sanctification  is that of “setting apart” someone, or something, for special use.

Biblically, this primarily describes the act of God who separates or consecrates something as holy.  The first instance of this happening is when God sanctifies the 7th day of creation—recognizing it as holy.  The secondary meaning of the word involves the idea of “moral” or “ethical” renewal or cleansing.  In this sense, “sanctification” connotes the idea of a process being made more holy or righteous as read in passages like:
1Thessalonians 4.3-5  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.  

Theologically, sanctification is connected with salvation. Salvation is a term use to describe the deliverance of men from the curse of sin through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In some sense, salvation is both an ACT of God’s grace on the cross and a continuing WORK of God’s grace through His Spirit.  Sanctification is a comprehensive term that describes multiple layers of salvific deliverance—past, present, and future. In other words, we have been saved, we are being saved, AND we will be saved in eternity. (i.e. Been sanctified, being sanctified, will be sanctified)

There are four different kinds of sanctification that help describe this”process” of deliverance.

  1. Prepratory Sanctification:  God Father plans redemption before the foundation of the world. Including in this plan is a decision to set apart individuals to “make holy and blameless” for his purposes–which is to reveal the riches of his glorious grace in Christ.  Prepratory sanctification is the pre-work of God’s Spirit whereby he elects a people–setting them apart–to be saved from sin. This is commonly referred to as predestination.
  2. Positional Sanctification:  Having been prepared, we are delivered from the penalty, guilt, and shame of sin the moment we received God’s grace and, through faith, and rust in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  In that moment, the Spirit applies the atonement to the heart of one of His elect.  By grace, through faith, that individual is placed “in Christ”.  Positional sanctification (justification) delivers us from the penalty and authority of sin. This is commonly referred to as justification.
  3. Progressive Sanctification: Even though we have been sanctified, and placed “in Christ” God is still sanctifying us in our daily lives.  This is because the Spirit of Jesus that SAVES US is now living IN US.  Having been placed in Christ, by His Spirit, we are maturing in Him or growing up into Christ.  Our UNION with Jesus is perfect  in our souls, but our COMMUNION with him fluctuates  in our bodies.  Said another way, over a lifetime, we become in practice what we are in position.  Progressive sanctification delivers us from the power /influence of sin.This is commonly referred to as sanctification.
  4. Prospective Sanctification:  The final stage in the sanctification process is the completed salvation of the believer. This is experienced at the resurrection when the believer will be transformed into the likeness of Christ and presented to the Lord as holy. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer is both the promise of and the agency for this future perfection. Final sanctification completes our salvation in that it brings our position and our practice together.  Prospective sanctification delivers us from the presence of sin. This is commonly referred to as glorification.

Even if describing salvation in terms of sanctification is uncommon, the convictions behind each of these is accepted by most evangelicals (apart from the nature of predestination).  There are, however, wide divisions regarding progressive sanctification, namely, how it works and who does that work.  I will tackle that in that next blog.
NEXT BLOG:  Sanctification 102: What are the tools of Sanctification?