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Doing God’s Work and Will God’s Way in the Church

March 27, 2012 1 comment

We are living in a time in which some people are saying that we need to re-invent the church.  But I say wait a minute.   I agree with a growing number of pastors who seem to have gotten to the point where “enough is enough”.  I believe we need to get back to God and back to basics in the church. We need to do God’s work and will God’s way which is to follow the biblical foundations for the church Jesus himself modeled.

I believe this church looks like the church in Acts 2:41-47.  A church comprised of authentic believers in Jesus Christ living a disciplined disciples life which God honored by adding to the church daily and where God’s people grew in ever deepening relationship with Him. That is the church that changed and turned its world upside down.  Today I fear that the one being changed is the church as the world brings increasing influence into God’s house and among God’s people.  We are commanded to avoid the ways of the world (1John 2:15-16) and have our minds transformed and not conformed to its ways (Rom 12:1-2).   Some churches seem to walk on the margins in attempting to be relevant to our culture often compromising, albeit it well intentioned, in view of winning some.   Jesus never compromised on the gospel and neither should we.

The solution to our dilemma is to be obedient to the Word of God and endeavor to model ourselves after the original foundation for the church that Jesus himself established and exemplified. The Acts 2 church is God’s original design for the church.  A church where the whole Word of God is taught and believers are proactively discipled, where God’s people pray together, fellowship together, serve together, worship together and go on mission together.  This does not mean we avoid acknowledging and responding to an evolving culture, but we should not compromise in this process and never subordinate God’s ways for our own.

The goal of the church is to join God in His work to redeem a lost world.  Our goal is not bigness, entertainment, seeker friendliness, grand facilities, or providing an unending array of programs and activities.   The goal is to establish a “healthy” church where God’s people grow in their relationship with God and go on mission and serve out of their love and obedience to God’s commands (John 14:15).

My heart as a pastor is focused in two primary areas; the first is the spiritual development of God’s people and secondly winning the lost.  These two key areas live at the intersection of the “Great Commission –Matt 28:19-20” and the “Great Commandment –Matt 22:37-40”.  This is the heart of the mission of a biblically focused church.

Doing God’s work and will God’s way should be our chief pursuit.  The only means for doing this is being deeply grounded in God’s Word and being obedient to all it commands.  I pray the church turns from the influence of the world and humbly returns to its foundation and becomes the influence Jesus intended His church to be on the world.

As for this pastor, I pray that God will provide by His Spirit the wisdom, courage, strength, and grace to stand strong and mirror the biblical foundation of His church.  An Acts 2 church where the power of the church is clearly seen by a lost and watching world through the lives of God’s people and a church exemplified by its love for God and where  God’s people live and serve in unity.

Spiritual Leadership: Urgent need for the resurrection of the small church

January 20, 2012 Leave a comment

The following is a short post on the urgent need for the resurrection of the small church in America.  The premise is that the greatest potential opportunity to grow committed surrendered followers of Christ and unleash the full potential of Christ’s church comes from intimate, intentional, proactive, and loving shepherding of the flock (1 Peter 5:2). This is Spiritual leadership at the heart of the gospel.

With over 70% of churches in the United States represented with memberships of less than 300, you have to ask what role the small church is playing in advancing the kingdom of God.   The reality is some are dynamic while many are a sleep.  According to the Southern Baptist Convention the majority of churches seem to be flat or in decline.  Yet, the small church, I believe has the greatest potential to be the catalyst for revival and advancing the cause of Christ in America.  The movement has begun as you see church planting and new church starts on the increase as a core strategy of many ministries, e.g. Acts 29 Ministries, the NAMB, larger local churches.

Why I believe the small church is the future of the church is because the greatest opportunity to advance the kingdom is for the local church to live at the intersection of the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:37-40) and the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20).  To do this requires an intentional effort by the local church to focus on the spiritual development of God’s people helping them grow in holiness and an ever deepening relationship with Christ.  This intentionality requires a shepherds heart and continuous influence.  Peter exhorts church leaders to shepherd the flock.

 1 Peter 5:2
2Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly;

What flock?  The flock that is among them!  This means that the primary focus of the pastor is to shepherd the flock God has given and from faithful commitment to this end God will advance His kingdom through the development of committed surrendered followers of Christ.   A healthy church is not necessarily based on its size or the number of new members, but the faithful shepherding of God’s people.  How then do you measure a healthy church?  Some elements include:

  • Marriages restored
  • Broken lives restored
  • Increase in faithful surrendered disciples –growing in holiness
  • Increase in the number of core members serving, going, telling
  • Increase in biblical literacy
  • Passion for prayer
  • Reverent worship
  • Intimate and frequent fellowship of the body

Collectively these areas bring into perspective a view of the apostolic church which grew exponentially through discipleship, prayer, fellowship, ministry, evangelism, and worship (Acts 2:38-47).  These are the basic fundamentals of the Christian walk.  Oh how we need to return to these core fundamentals today.  Not just in activity and by  name but out of the overflow of our love for Christ obediently following His commands (John 14:15, 21, 23; 15:14) and by faithfully employing core Christian disciplines to deepen our relationship with God, becoming more conformed to Christ so we are most usable for the kingdom (Eph. 4:13;Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor.  3:18).

To accomplish the above requires intentional, proactive, relentless, and loving shepherding of the flock God has given His shepherd.  It can be argued that the small church has a great potential to model the apostolic church led by spiritual leaders (shepherds) intent on the spiritual development of his people, growing them in holiness and Christlikeness where revival can be ignited and spread.

Today, given technology, communications, and many available ministry tools the small church can play much larger than it may be represented in numbers of members.  The avenues God may choose to lead a small church may come in many different flavors, many we readily know and employ today (internet, alliances, satellites, etc.).  However, most importantly we know that God’s ways are not our ways (Is 55:8-9).  So, if we really desire to join God in His work it is not our ways that we seek it is His revealing of His ways we desire.  How exciting to know that He has so much more for us than we can conceive and that as we remain faithful we can enjoy the potential privilege of having God reveal God sized activities we can join Him in where He can receive all the glory.  After all with God all things are possible (Luke 1:37).  Our job is to trust Him, be faithful in what He has given, and not put any limits on what He might desire to accomplish through us.  Consequently we much keep in perspective that small churches have no less potential to impact the kingdom of God than the large mega church!

Shepherding of Christ’s church is vital to the cause of Christ and is the key ingredient for the spiritual leadership of God’s people.  The small church is extraordinarily vital to God’s mission to redeem a lost world given the call to “shepherd the flock which has been given”.  Yes, I believe that the resurrection of the small church is crucial and urgently needed for bringing revival in the hearts of God’s people, His church, and our nation.  It starts with committed and surrendered shepherds – spiritual leaders on fire for advancing the kingdom through the shepherding of the God given body of believer’s he has been entrusted with.

Pray for God to raise up spiritual leaders to join Him in breathing new life into the small church, shepherding the flock for advancing the gospel and the kingdom of God.

Much more to come on this vital topic.

Walking the Walk – What are the big rocks in your life?

January 16, 2012 Leave a comment

In Philippians 3:14 Paul says, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus …”

He introduced that statement in v.13 with “but this one thing I do.” Obviously Paul did more than one thing!   He made tents … He preached sermons. He planted churches … He wrote books … Paul did a lot of things! But what he is telling us is that his top priority in life was to “press toward the mark of the upward call…”Paul is saying, “I run straight toward the goal to win the prize that God’s heavenly call offers in Christ Jesus.”

In other words, Paul’s number one priority was the Kingdom of Heaven! He was running straight toward that goal; he wasn’t going to let anything distract him from it!

What is your focus/priorities for the coming year?  Let’s learn from a pickled egg jar!

 A while back an expert on the subject of time management was speaking to a group of business students!    After speaking to them for a while, he said, “Okay, it’s time for a quiz.” He set a two-gallon, wide mouthed Mason jar on the table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen tennis-ball-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, inside the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?”

 Everyone in the class said, “Yes.”  “Really?” he said.

 Then he reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of small gravel.

 He dumped some gravel into the jar and shook it , causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. Then he smiled and asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?”

 By this time the class was starting to catch on … “Probably not,” one of them said. “Good!” he replied. * Then he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it filled all the spaces between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked, “Is this jar full?”

 “No!” the class shouted. * Again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim.

 Then he looked back at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

 One eager student raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really heard, you can always fit something more in!”

 “No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point…The truth is illustration teaches us is this:  IF YOU DON’T PUT THE BIG ROCKS IN FIRST, YOU’LL NEVER GET THEM IN AT ALL.”

 What are the big rocks in your life?  As you look ahead over this year, what are your priorities?

Jesus had a lot to say about our priorities.

 Jesus said in Matthew 6:33

33But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

 Matthew 22:37-39  – Great Commandment

37Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’

38This is the first and great commandment.

39And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

Matthew 28:19-20 – Great Commission

19Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

20teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

 Are you living at the intersection of the Great Commission and the Great Commandment?

Are your big rocks Christ centered and kingdom focused? Worship, prayer, Bible reading and study, family, fellowship, missions, ministry, evangelism. These should be among the big rocks in your jar.

It’s  heartbreaking, but a true fact, that many Christians do not make God’s Kingdom a priority in life!   Where do you find yourself at the beginning of this New Year?   Won’t you make this year a time for reigniting your walk with God and reaffirm or re-establish your priorities in a manner pleasing to God as Jesus commands – be Christ-centered and kingdom focused.  Amen.

The Survival Zone: Can ALL be good in the midst of difficult trials?

January 11, 2012 1 comment


How do you respond to the events which happen in your life?  Do you see them as good or bad depending on the situation?  We are often faced with tragedy, hurts, disappointments and the like in the midst of many positive circumstances in our life.  Are life events all good independent of their nature?  God’s Word tells us in…

1 Thessalonians 5:18
18in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

And in,

Romans 8:28
28And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

So, are bad trials, really bad trials, in our lives good?

The following story (source: Open Doors Ministry) helps give an interesting perspective for how we should endeavor to look at life’s circumstances and appropriately respond.

A tribal king in Africa had a close friend with whom he grew up. The friend had a habit of looking at every situation that ever occurred in his life (positive or negative) as well as the lives of others and remarking, “This is good!” He based it on our two Scriptures above.  The king loved his friend’s positive outlook and took him with him wherever he went.

One day the king and his friend were out on a hunting expedition. As the king fired his gun at a pheasant that flew up from the long grass, the rifle backfired and blew off his right thumb. Looking at the king’s bleeding hand, his friend remarked as usual, “This is good!”

The king was angry and replied, “No, this is NOT good!” and proceeded to send his friend to jail for his insensitivity.

About a year later, the king was hunting all alone in an area that he should have known to stay clear of.  Cannibals captured him and took him to their village. They tied his hands, stacked some wood, and were going to cook him in a big pot. As they set fire to the wood, they noticed that the king was missing a thumb on his right hand. Being very superstitious, cannibals never eat anyone who is less than perfect. So they released the king.

Walking home he kept staring at his right hand without a thumb. “This IS good!” he said out loud. He was reminded of the event that had taken his thumb and felt remorse for his shabby treatment of his friend. So he went immediately to the jail to speak with his friend.

“You were right,” he said, “it was good that my thumb was blown off.” And he proceeded to tell the friend all that had just happened. “And so, I am very sorry for sending you to jail for so long. It was bad for me to do this.”

“No,” his friend replied as usual, “This is good!”

“What do you mean, ‘This is good?’ How could it be good that I put my friend in jail for over a year?”

“Well,” replied his friend, “if I had not been here in jail, I would have been out there with you!”

Survival Points:  God is sovereign and desires His people to draw near to Him, trust Him, and be totally dependent on Him.  As He crafts our character through our trials in this life He uses the circumstances of life to accomplish His purpose in growing us toward Christ-likeness.   Even in the negative things He is sovereign and has purposed all we experience for our good and His glory.  Our response should be to focus on the “what” of our trial – what do You wish me to learn from this Lord; how can I serve You more fully; how can I become more like Your Son?  Let the negative challenges of your life circumstances, small or great, draw out the positive of God through your testimony!

Yes, all is good even in our really difficult trials and circumstances (while in many instances we may not see this at the time);  we are even given the privilege through our trials to experience the joy of Christ as never before as we learn to see our trials for their designed purposes.  The Apostle Paul’s Christian life seemed to be one difficult trial after another, yet he was always positive, on mission, and an encouragement to others independent of his circumstances (read Acts 16).  Which is in essence the definition of joy (a feeling of peace beyond our understanding independent of our most challenging circumstances – Phil 4:6-7)!  His secret was to always have the mind of Christ (Phil 2:5) and be focused on the future and the upward calling of the kingdom of God (Phil 3:13-14).

Our prayer should be for God to help us always see the positive in ALL our circumstances (Romans 8:28); trusting in His sovereignty; acknowledging He always knows what is best and good for us; and in all things give thanks (1 Thess. 5:18) for we have a strong Advocate to cast all our cares upon for He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).  We are not alone, ever, He has promised to never leave us or forsake us, that means especially in our difficult trials (Heb 13:5). Remember God’s ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts or timing (Is 55:8-9).  We should ask God to help us always elevate our thoughts upward toward Him, seeing His purposes of goodness in them!

Lord help us always to be Christ-centered and Kingdom-focused seeing beyond ourselves toward Your higher purposes all for Your honor and glory.  Amen.

3 Practical Steps to a Good Conscience

January 11, 2012 Leave a comment

3 Practical Steps to a Good Conscience

Paul says I always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men. Acts 24:16 Having a good conscience before God is living the Great Commandment (Matt 22:37-39) believing and acting on all He has spoken out of our love for Him (John 14:15).  Having no offence toward men we should live our lives in obedience to God as salt and light with grace in our speech (Col 4:5-6) with the love of Christ in our hearts (1 John 4:7).

The following daily practices are practical steps for never having to look over the shoulder of your conscience:

1.  Always do the right thing (Col 3:17)

2.  Always do the best you can (Col 3:23-24)

3.  Always treat people the way you want to be treated (Matt 7:12)

Having a good conscience before God and man is an intentional choice.  Praise God He has given us His Word to guide our hearts and direct our steps (Ps  119:11, 133)

Moments of Decision – Longing for the Good Old Days

December 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Ecclesiastes 7:10
10    Do not say,     “Why were the former days better than these?”     For you do not inquire wisely concerning this.

We often find ourselves reflecting back and saying, “I really long for the good old days when..”.  It seems that this thinking often comes in times of nostalgia, difficult trials, or when things around us seem hopeless.  Are the “good ole days” really better than today and our hope for the future?

According to Solomon, the preacher in Ecclesiastes, the answer to this question is; not really.  In fact this saying, while very common, indicates there is no biblical truth in our attachment to this notion about former days.  In fact, when we reflect on the former days we often are using it to excuse current circumstances around us and even our own behavior.  We might say that in former times, men were more religious, have a deeper sense and longing for God, experience more self-denial, lived holier lives, and were more exemplary in all their conduct in the world.  This is false thinking.

In former times men were wicked as they are now, and religion just as mixed with its share of hypocrisy, saintly saints, and lostness.  God is the same now as He was then; as loving, as just, as merciful, as ready to save, as ready to help.  So you may say that we live in a corrupt age – and you would be right even as prior ages where corrupt.  The thought here is that it is not the age that is corrupt, but the men of the age.    We only have to look at ourselves; our hearts, our attitudes/motives, and our obedience to determine the why and how our thoughts may race to the “good old days”.

Solomon proclaims in Ecclesiastes chapter 1 verse nine that there is “nothing new under the sun”.

Ecclesiastes 1:9
9    That which has been is what will be,      That which is done is what will be done,     And there is nothing new under the sun.

Man continues in his sinful fallen state and God continues in His goodness and has ordained the means through His Son to redeem a lost world from its fallen condition and restore a right relationship with Him.  This has not changed since the garden and each generation experiences the grace, mercy and love of God, His offer of salvation, and the hope of eternity.

I will acknowledge that nostalgia plays a role in our feelings about the good old days.  Memories are often found there to refresh the soul and give peace in our hearts.  Past times seem to have their medicinal qualities to refresh by their positive and comfortable thoughts like hot chocolate on a cold winter night remembered.   Praise God we are creatures with a memory and can enjoy these thoughts.

We, however, need to be cautious to check our motives for reflecting on prior days that they are not fueling ungodly attitudes and behaviors.  This could be discontent, anger, bitterness, grudges, acting on ungodly memories of many sorts.  The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked and needs to be checked at all times for its motives.  This is true for individuals and applies equally as well to churches.

Husbands, wives, families are often “historical” in their relating to current events of life.  This can bring up many hurts, frustrations, unforgiveness, bitterness, and put a wet blanket on God’s current work in their lives.  My wife and I have an agreement that we cannot bring anything up which is greater than thirty days past.  This has worked wonders for keeping focused on God’s activity in our lives today seeking His will and being thankful for all He has and is providing.  Never looking back in an attitude of ungratefulness with the ” would of, should of, could of” syndrome should be our heart attitude.  Paul gave an admonition to the believers in Philippi which reflects an attitude of forward thinking and not looking back.

Philippians 3:13-14
13Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
14I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

The truth of these verses might be summarized as follows – In Jesus, your days ahead are greater than your days gone by.  Hands down, without doubt, with hope and expectation the future in Christ promises to bring you deeper and closer in your relationship with Him and the resulting joy and abundant life only He can give.

Paul says to forget those things which are behind (don’t dwell on past failures, poor decisions, sinful behavior no matter how grievous, disappointments, bitterness, hurts, should of’s, etc.).  He could speak with authority given the weight of his past which included broad persecution of Christs’ church and being complicit in murder.  Paul knew that it was not wise to dwell on the past but to keep his priorities focused on the prize of the higher calling in Christ Jesus.   Oh, how we need to take these words in and embrace them in our daily walk giving our lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ and allowing Him to direct our hearts and minds toward the upward call.  There is no greater source of peace, fulfillment, and contentment in life.  You will never have to look over your shoulder if you keep your eyes on Jesus.

Thoughts of the past and yearning for the “good old days” in itself is not the issue Solomon is addressing; it is the foolishness in making the distinction, because in truth every age (stages of life) has its bright and its dark sides.  It is for us to look forward with thanksgiving and anticipation at what God is doing today in our lives and strive to seek His will as we progress toward spiritual maturity.  Our aim is not to be detoured reflecting on the past but be purposed in Christ Jesus toward the future.  It is a high calling. A calling requiring intentionality, forward momentum, and the acknowledgement of an  eternal purpose which is greater than ourselves.

In the end it is foolish to complain about present times and longing for the good old days when the real issue much of the time is dealing with the current state of our own hearts.  When our hearts are right with God our lives are right with Him and others.  This provides the spiritual state of mind which equips us for coping with the world around us which seems to relentlessly tempt us, discourage us, and give us a sense of defeat.  This often draws us back to times we perceive were more in keeping with a better state than what we are experiencing at the present.  That is exactly what the enemy wants us to think.  To discourage, deceive, and derail what God has in store for us up the road.   It is our task to recognize our need to stay focused on our highest priority, as Paul exhorts us to do, the goal of our upward calling.

The chief subject of the book of Ecclesiastes is the folly of all man’s efforts in seeking happiness here below, and that the wisdom which judges all this only renders man still unhappy.   One way man seeks to reconcile his state is to look backward and long for perceived better times, which we are told is unwise.   What then are we to do?  The preacher of Ecclesiastes gives us the conclusion of the whole matter.

Ecclesiastes 12:13
13Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:      Fear God and keep His commandments,     For this is man’s all.

Moments of Decision – longing for the good old days:  Reflect on the good old days without comparison, enjoy the thoughts of pleasant times, enjoy  the memory of fond smells and bright sunny days, while making the decision of always being steadfastly focused on the prize of the upward calling, being content and grateful for where God has you today, fearing God with reverence and awe and obeying all His commandments while resting in the blessed hope of glory and eternity to come.

Holiness – our sanctification is the will of God

December 2, 2011 Leave a comment

In our series on holiness it is important to define the key doctrine of sanctification and to understand exactly what this term means and how it relates to our pursuit of holiness. Sanctification is another area the Bible speaks substantially about (over 1000 times in various forms) yet there seems to be limited attention paid to it in our churches. Sanctification’s importance can be seen when comparing it to regeneration; where regeneration for the Christian is birth; sanctification is all about spiritual growth. I will not effort to exhaust this study, but to provide an overview to help us understand the importance and nature of growing in holiness – our sanctification.

1 Thessalonians 4:3
3For this is the will of God, your sanctification:

In the ordinary acceptance of these words, they simply mean that among many other things that God has willed, sanctification is one; it is something in accordance with His will. This thought contains teaching of great value. God very distinctly and definitely has willed your sanctification: your sanctification has its source and certainty in its being God’s will. We are ‘elect in sanctification of the Spirit,’ ‘chosen to be holy;’ the purpose of Gods will from eternity, and His will now, is our sanctification.

Ephesians 1:4
4just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,

“To be one with God’s will is to be holy. Everything in a life of holiness depends upon our being in the right relationship to the will of God.” (A. Murray)

The design of the Gospel is to teach men not only what they should believe, but also how they should live. It is God’s will that all His should be holy. The Lord calls none into his family to live unholy lives, but that they may be taught and enabled to walk before him in holiness. Some make light of the precepts of holiness, because they hear them from men; but they are God’s commands, and to break them is to despise God.

Let us look at some basic dictionary definitions for context.

“SANCTIFICATION: The act of making holy; the state of being sanctified or made holy. Theologically—The act of God’s grace by which the affections of men are purified or alienated from sin and the world, and exalted to a supreme love of God.” Webster’s Dictionary

SANCTIFY: To make holy or sacred; to consecrate or set apart; … to purify from sin,… SANCTIFICATION: Technically, an operation of the Spirit of God (Rom. 15:16; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2) on those who are already in Jesus, i.e., are united to Him by faith (1 Cor. 1:2), by which they are rendered increasingly holy, dying to sin and living to God, to righteousness, and to holiness (Rom. 6:6, 11, 13, 19; 1 Thess. 5:23; 1 Pet. 2:24). American Dictionary

HOLINESS: “1. Perfect moral integrity or purity; freedom from sin; sanctity, innocence. 2. State of being hallowed or consecrated to God, or His worship. Webster’s Dictionary

The Bible has much to say about this key doctrine. Sanctification occurs in various forms some 300 times in the New Testament and 760 times in the Old Testament for a total of 1060 in the Bible. The basic meaning in all these instances is “to set apart.” It is a lifelong process of growing in grace and spiritual maturity.

If regeneration has to do with our nature, justification with our standing, and adoption with our position, then sanctification has to do with our character and conduct. In justification we are declared righteous in order that, in sanctification, we may become righteous. Justification is what God does for us, while sanctification is what God does in us. Justification puts us into a right relationship with God, while sanctification exhibits the fruit of that relationship—a life separated from a sinful world and dedicated unto God.

The characteristic life pursuit in which the Christian is to live is that of sanctification, separated unto holiness. We cannot forget that the new man has a renewed will. This new will delights in the will of God because it is born of it.

There are three key aspects of sanctification taught in the Bible. The following is a brief review.

1. Instantaneous Sanctification

1 Corinthians 6:11
11And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

Hebrews 10:10
10By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Hebrews 10:14
14For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

By the death of Jesus Christ the sanctification of the believer takes place at once. The very moment a man believes in Christ he is sanctified, that is, in this first sense: he is separated from sin and separated unto God. For this reason all through the New Testament believers are called saints (1 Cor. 1:2, Rom. 1:7). If a man is not a saint he is not a Christian; if he is a Christian he is a saint. We can see that in 1 Cor. 6:11 “sanctified” is put before “justified.” The believer grows in sanctification rather than into sanctification out of something else. By a simple act of faith in Christ the believer is at once put into a state of sanctification. Every Christian is a sanctified man. The same act that ushers him into the state of justification admits him at once into the state of sanctification, in which he is to grow until he reaches the fullness of the measure of the stature of Christ.

2. Progressive Sanctification

Justification differs from sanctification: the former is an instantaneous act with no progression; while the latter is a crisis with a view to a process—an act, which is instantaneous and which at the same time carries with it the idea of growth unto completion.

2 Peter 3:18
18but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.

2 Corinthians 3:18
18But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

The tense is interesting here: We are being transformed from one degree of character, or glory, to another. It is because sanctification is progressive, a growth, that we are exhorted to “increase and abound” (1 Thess. 3:12), and to “abound more and more” (4:1, 10) in the graces of the Christian life. The fact that there is always danger of being defiled by contact with a sinful world, and that there is, in the life of the true Christian, an ever increasing sense of duty and an ever-deepening consciousness of sin, necessitates a continual growth and development in the graces and virtues of the believer’s life. There is such a thing as “perfecting holiness” (2 Cor. 7:1). God’s gift to the church of pastors and teachers is for the purpose of the perfecting of the saints in the likeness of Christ until, at last, they attain unto the fulness of the divine standard, even Jesus Christ (Eph. 4:11-15). Holiness is not an overnight growth; it is not the thing of an hour here and there; it grows as the coral reef grows: little by little, degree by degree. See also Phil. 3:10-15.

3. Complete and Final Sanctification

1 Thessalonians 5:23
23Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Completely” means, perfect in every respect, whether it refers to the Church as a whole, or to the individual believer. Some day the believer is to be complete in all departments of Christian character—no Christian grace will be missing. Complete in the “spirit” which links him with heaven; in the “body” which links him with earth; in the “soul” as being that on which heaven and earth intersect. Maturity in each separate element of Christian character: body, soul, and spirit. This blessing of entire and complete sanctification is to take place when Christ comes:

1 Thessalonians 3:13
13so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.
1 John 3:2
2Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

Philippians 3:12-14
12Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.
13Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,
14I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

From the Divine Side: It Is the Work of the Triune God.
a) God the Father

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
23Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
24He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.

God’s work is here contrasted with human efforts to achieve the preceding injunctions. Just as in Hebrews 12:2, and Philippians 1:6, the Beginner of faith is also the Finisher; so is it here; consequently the end and aim of every exhortation is but to strengthen faith in God who is able to accomplish these things for us. Of course there is a sense in which the believer is responsible for his progress in the Christian life (Phil. 3:12, 13), yet it is nevertheless true that, after all, it is the divine grace which works all in him (Phil. 2:12, 13). We cannot purify ourselves, but we can yield to God and then the purity will come. The “God of peace,” He who reconciles us—is the One who sanctifies us. It is as if the apostle said: “God, by His mighty power will do for you what I, by my admonitions, and you by your own efforts, cannot do.” See also John 17:17—“Sanctify them through thy truth.” Christ addresses God as the One who is to sanctify the disciples.

b) Jesus Christ the Son

Hebrews 10:10
10By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

The death of Jesus Christ separates the believer from sin and the world, and sets him apart as redeemed and dedicated to the service of God. This same truth, namely, the sanctification of the Church as based on the sacrificial death of Christ, is set forth in Eph. 5:25, 27—“Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for it; that he might sanctify it.” Christ is “made unto us… sanctification” (1 Cor. 1:30). See also Heb. 13:12

c) The Holy Spirit Sanctifies

1 Peter 1:2
2elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.

2 Thessalonians 2:13
13But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth,

The Holy Spirit seals, attests, and confirms the work of grace in the soul by producing the fruits of righteousness. It is the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus who gives us freedom from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2). He is called the Holy Spirit, not only because He is absolutely holy Himself, but also because He produces that quality of character in the believer. The Spirit is the executive of the Godhead for this very purpose. It is the Spirit’s work to war against the lusts of the flesh and enable us to bring forth fruit unto holiness (Gal. 5:17-22). How wonderfully this truth is set forth in the contrast between the seventh and eighth chapters of Romans. Note the unsuccessful struggle of the former, and the victory of the latter. Interestingly there is no mention of the Holy Spirit in the seventh chapter of Romans, while He is mentioned about sixteen times in the eighth chapter. Herein lies the secret of failure and victory, sin and holiness.

From the Human Side

a) Faith in the Redemptive Work of Jesus Christ

1 Corinthians 1:30
30But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—

Christ is indeed all these things to us, but, in reality, He becomes such only as we appropriate Him for ourselves. Only as the believer, daily, even moment by moment, takes by faith the holiness of Jesus, His faith, His patience, His love, His grace, to be his own for the need of that very moment, can Christ, who by His death was made unto him sanctification in the instantaneous sense, become unto him sanctification in the progressive sense—producing in the believer His own life moment by moment. Herein lies the secret of a holy life—the momentary appropriation of Jesus Christ in all the riches of His grace for every need as it arises. The degree of our sanctification is the proportion of our appropriation of Christ. See also Acts 26:18.

b) The Study of the Scriptures and Obedience

John 17:17
17Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.

Ephesians 5:26
26that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,

John 15:3
3You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.

Our sanctification is limited by our limitation in the knowledge of and our lack of obedience to the Word of God. How does the Word of God sanctify? By revealing sin; by awakening conscience; by revealing the character of Christ; by showing the example of Christ; by offering the influences and powers of the Holy Spirit, and by setting forth spiritual motives and ideals. There is no power like that of the Word of God for detaching a man from the world, the flesh and the devil.

c) The Pursuit of Holiness

Hebrews 12:14
14Pursue … holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:

To pursue means to seek out, as Saul of Tarsus pursued and followed the early Christians. One cannot become a saint in his sleep. Holiness must be the object of his pursuit. The lazy man will not be the holy man. Heb. 12:10, 11: God chastens us “for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.” Chastisement often is intended to “produce the peaceable fruit of righteousness.” Rom. 6:19-22; 2 Cor. 6:17; 7:1. Sanctification is brought about in the life of the believer by his separating himself deliberately from all that is unclean and unholy, and by presenting, continually and constantly, the members of his body as holy instruments unto God for the accomplishment of His holy purposes. Thus by these single acts of surrender unto holiness, sanctification soon becomes the habit of the life.

Summary

The Westminster Shorter Catechism says sanctification is “the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.” The concept is not of sin being totally eradicated or merely counteracted, but of a Holy Spirit orchestrated character change freeing us from sinful habits and forming in us Christlike behavior, attitudes, and virtues.

As stated in the introduction regeneration is birth; sanctification is growth. In regeneration, God implants desires that were not there before:

  • desire for God, for holiness, and for the hallowing and glorifying of God’s name in this world;
  • desire to pray, worship, love, serve, honor, and please God;
  • desire to show love and bring benefit to others.

In sanctification, the Holy Spirit “works in you to will and to act” according to God’s purpose; what he does is prompt you to “work out your salvation” (i.e., express it in action) by fulfilling these new desires (Phil. 2:12-13). Christians become increasingly Christlike as the moral profile of Jesus (the “fruit of the Spirit”) is progressively formed in them (2 Cor. 3:18; Gal. 4:19; 5:22-25). As we progress in Christlikeness we are growing in holiness, for He is holy.

A.W. Pink wrote these words as a warning to Christians regarding personal holiness in the early 1900’s which still applies to our current day.

“How many there are today who suppose that if they have trusted in Christ, all is sure to be well with them at the last even though they are not personally holy. Under the pretense of honoring faith, Satan as an angel of light, has deceived and is now deceiving multitudes of souls. When their “faith” is examined and tested, what is it worth? Nothing at all so far as insuring an entrance into heaven is concerned: it is a powerless, lifeless, fruitless thing. The faith of God’s elect is unto “the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness” (Titus 1:1). It is a faith which purifieth the heart (Acts 15:9), and it grieves over all impurity. It is a faith which produces an unquestioning obedience (Heb. 11:8). They therefore do but delude themselves who suppose they are daily drawing nearer to heaven while they are following those courses which lead only to hell. He who thinks to come to the enjoyment of God without being personally holy, makes Him out to be an unholy God, and puts the highest indignity upon Him. The genuineness of saving faith is only proved as it bears the blossoms of experimental godliness and the fruits of true piety”

Scripture is clear we are to Pursue holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” Heb 12:14 and the decision to purse holiness is our choice for we are to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” Phil 2:12, and gratefully with thanksgiving we are empowered by the power of the Holy Spirit Phil 2:13 in this pursuit. The doctrine of sanctification  has serious and eternal implications for the believer. Given the price Christ paid for our salvation and having separated us out to holiness to become conformed to His image, should not our reasonable pursuit be a life of obedience toward sanctification for it is the “will of God” 1 Thess 4:3?

Romans 8:29
29For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

May the Spirit of God draw us humbly toward holiness, moment by moment, breath by breath, that Christ might be fully expressed in and through us for the glory of the Father. Amen.