The Planks of the Faith: Remembering for Re-Membering, Part 18
The Plank of the Faith for today’s meal to share at The Training Table, The Sanctification of Sinners, is of “vital” importance to the Christian and non-Christian alike:
“Vitality” (for the Christian) might be defined as, “Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying His voice and holding fast to Him, for He is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them” (Deuteronomy 30:18-20)!
All of humanity—whether covered by God’s “special grace” (born again, saved by God, by grace, through faith) or covered by God’s “common grace” (unregenerate yet saved by God from the realities of sin’s unrelenting and destroying effects upon the universe by His merciful, providential hand withholding sin’s terrible impact)—benefit from growing up more and more into a vital force of life!
We could say that all mankind benefits from the “common grace sanctification” or growth, maturing, gaining wisdom as compared to knowledge—and benefits society by means of their growth in character. Unfortunately, being a person of character has no salvific value, but does benefit society under common grace.
Saved mankind do the same—except its after being born again and moving towards holiness, Christlikeness, and benefitting mankind “on earth as it is in heaven”, before we stand face-to-face with God in glory, and in the reality of earth having been redeemd from all sin.
By definition, to sanctify is, “to make holy; set apart as sacred; consecrate; to purify, refine, or free from sin: E.g., Sanctify, purify your hearts.” (dictionary.com)
“When we talk about sanctification what we mean is this: How does a sinner who has been saved by God’s grace actually start to change, to be transformed (Rom 12:2) into the image of God (Eg, Christ) (2 Cor 3:18), to live a life that is holy and pleasing to God, rather than sinful and displeasing? Is it a matter of trying harder? Or is something else involved? How does my sanctification relate to my justification?” (See Life Differently)
“We are saved by believing the gospel, and then we are transformed (sanctified) in every part of our mind, heart, and life by believing the gospel more and more deeply as our life goes on.” (Rev. Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, NYC–parenthesis added)
Just like being born again is an essential, organic, identity change of our spiritual nature, sanctification is the continuation of the journey forward and upward—organically—as we are conformed increasingly into the image and works of Jesus Christ!
Can we get the sense that this is no small matter?
“Sanctification—This is a continual work of God’s grace that begins at justification and ends at glorification. As the word implies, sanctification involves God’s “scrubbing program,” carried out by him as he graciously and sovereignly applies the realities of the Gospel and the various Christian disciplines to the hearts of his regenerated, justified, adopted, and faithful people. In so doing, God works to release us from the power of sin and grows us up to be more like Christ, both in our inward thoughts and outward behaviors. In regeneration, God gives us new hearts. In sanctification, he nourishes and strengthens that new heart, sheltering it so that it may grow as a tender vine to full, fruit-bearing Christian maturity.” (John Dozier, WWW)
A Dilemma Experienced Through the “Suffering-Sanctification Lens”
Admittedly, since there are so many “doorways” through which we could walk to investigate the vital issue of sanctification, I’ve been hailing back to my experience written about in my book, “The Weeping, the Window, the Way: Will suffering make you bitter or better”: Sanctification is about becoming better! The “most betterest” there is: Jesus Christ.
Please bear with me as I end this preface to this Plank of the Faith by offering my heart about this issue:
1) My main motivation for the writing my book was about love: God’s love of me; my (highly flawed) love of God; my love of “neighbor” (any human being I could influence); as a reflection of my love of myself (about the revelation and sanctification God had blessed me with, and that I wanted to bless others with).
2) The target audience for the book is described as, “Christians living in a culture of comfort”.
3) And “Christians living in a culture of comfort” can very easily and unwittingly avoid all kinds of trials, suffering, and evil—and thereby avoid one of the “primary cathartic processes” God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (as they each have interdependent yet distinct roles) has put in place to be sanctified, to be grown up, to be matured, to be refined, to be made more like Jesus, and thereby to be made more and more effective as light and salt in an increasingly dark and fast decaying world.
“Love shows its true colors in how it responds to trials, suffering, and evil.” (Rev. Joel R. Beeke)
As listed in my book, by means of God’s providential and most merciful love, our trials, suffering, and confrontations with evil sanctify us in various ways like,
• motivate us to prayer (Psalm 30)
• increase our trust in the person, providence and power of God (Psalm 119:71; 2 Corinthians 12:5, 9, 10)
• train us up in obedience, patience and hope (Romans 5; Hebrews 1)
• promote the sanctification (moving closer to holiness, purity, growth) of our faith (Proverbs 3:11-12; John 17;17; Romans 8:28; 1 Corinthians 11:32; Hebrews 12:8; 13:12)
• conform us into the likeness of Jesus Christ (Proverbs 66:10; Romans 8:29; 12:2; Hebrews 2:10)
• increase joy, wisdom, temporal, and eternal meaning within our heart (Romans 11:33-34; James 1; Colossians 1:24)
• teach us to pity others who suffer (Psalm 72:12; 2 Corinthians 1:3-7; James 1:27)
• increase the depth and breadth of the fruit of the spirit (Matthew 3:8; John 12:24; Galatians 5)
• offer manifold opportunities of seeing God’s glory and people’s blessing—as we move through the trial, and not around it (Ezekiel 11:18-21; Luke 24:26; 2 Corinthians 1:5; Philippians 3:8; 1 Peter 5)
• humble us while prying our fingers off the perishable things of this passing world (Psalm 39:6; John 2:12; 1 Corinthians 7:31; 2 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Peter 1:24)
• teach us to bear one another’s burdens and live in community (Genesis 48:4; Hebrews 13; Romans 1:12; Colossians 2:2; Galatians 6:2)
• set, re-set, and set again… sanctify our heart in and on the hope and assurance of eternal glory (Deuteronomy 31:6; Isaiah 40:31; Romans 12:12; 1 John 5:14)
The Planks of the Faith: The Sanctification of Sinners
“I. They (Sinners Justified by Faith), who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them: the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified; and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
II. This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence arises a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.
III. In which war, although the remaining corruption, for a time, may much prevail; yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part does overcome; and so, the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XIII, Of Sanctification—NOTE: to reference footnotes noted above)
May God richly bless your heart (core beliefs), spirit (emotions/”fruit of the Spirit”), and life (lived out in faith) by the Truth and Love of God—working together to redeem and to sanctify… unto His service and unto glory when Jesus returns to make all things new.
In what 3-4 ways does the above message THRILL and motivate me? And/or PERPLEX and paralyze me?
How have I seen the promose and doctrine of sancitifation work itself out in my own faith journey?
In what specific ways can I connect and recount for others my trials to God’s triumphs—by sanctifying my own heart, while transforming the world in similar ways?
How the Gospel Changes Us, Rev. Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, NYC
How to Change, Rev. Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, NYC