The Purpose of Sanctification

mattfivefour

Administrator
Staff member
There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding concerning this topic. Many Christians who come to me are confused about the purpose of sanctification. Many do not even understand exactly what it is. Consequently I felt led to share this sermon some time ago. I have added a little to it and am re-posting it here for the benefit of newer members.
_____

God's purpose in our sanctification is not to make us ready for Heaven. We are already fit for heaven the second we are saved. What Jesus did on the Cross is fully sufficient to fully cleanse us and make us fully ready for eternal life with God. It is a gift given us by God’s grace alone, as a result of Christ’s work alone. This gift is applied to our hearts when we accept it by faith. And the Holy Spirit superintends all that transpires in our lives from that point on. We are, in God's eyes, perfectly holy, perfectly sanctified. But that is our position in Christ. Our condition in this world requires work. And that is the subject I want to demystify.

Simply put, God's purpose in our sanctification in this life is to show His Son to the world, so that the world may be attracted by Him. We are to BE witnesses, not just talk about Him. Unfortunately few Christians, it would seem from my experience, qualify as witnesses because it is hard to tell them from the world around them. Oh, they may talk a good game; but what do they SHOW? What is the overarching character of their life? Jesus did not say the world "will know them by the fact they do not smoke, drink, cuss, etc." He said, the world "will know them by their love."

Sanctification is not something WE do. It is something GOD does. We cannot manufacture our own sanctification. That is the clear teaching of Galatians 3:3. It is the Holy Spirit that produces sanctification in us and, as it grows, it is evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit— love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23a) Now some expositors try to teach that the fruit is progressive: in other words, that we first get love and then progress until we wind up with self-control. Poppycock! The Greek word for fruit (καρπός, karpos) refers to a full crop, to a harvest. The fruit of the Spirit is NOT any single one, even two or three, of these qualities— it is ALL of them together. Now we can have all of them together to a greater degree or lesser, but until we have them all together it is not the fruit of the Spirit ready for harvest.

As we have said, the fruit of the Spirit does not appear in our lives by means of our own efforts. Nor does it automatically appear because we have made a profession of Christ as our Savior and have been born again. Unfortunately, the various holiness churches fail to grasp that truth and exist because they believe either man can do the work that the Bible says only the Holy Spirit can do or that sanctification is an automatic possession of the saint. While it may be automatic in potential, it is not so in realization. No, while our sanctification has indeed been fully purchased at Calvary, just as surely as our salvation, unlike the latter it is neither automatic nor instantaneous. It requires a daily denying of self, dying to self, surrendering to Christ. And this has nothing to do with works! It has to do with focus and surrender. While true Christians believe that they cannot make themselves good enough or pure enough or holy enough to get saved by their own efforts, they retain the idea that they can make themselves good enough or pure enough or holy enough to be sanctified by their own efforts. After all, we have lived out our entire lives learning and knowing that if we need something done we have to do it. Either we do it directly or indirectly we ensure it is done. We have to act. We have to do something. That is how the natural man lives. But the spiritual man is not so. The spiritual man has to learn to live in God's rest.

Some Christian sects make a great deal of the keeping of the Old Testament Sabbath ... some on Saturday, some on Sunday (though Sunday is NOT the Sabbath). They are quite correct in discerning the importance the Bible places on it. But they are keeping the type, not the anti-type; the shadow, not the reality. You see the OT Sabbath was a picture of the rest we would find in Christ. Speaking to those who labored under every weight of the Law, trying to please God by their efforts, Jesus said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28) The writer of Hebrews explained, "The one who has entered God's rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His." (Hebrews 4:10) Now the KJV does not draw a relation between this rest and the Sabbath; but that is because the translators departed from their manuscripts. For what I can only presume were doctrinal reasons of the Church of England, they translated the previous verse (Hebrews 4:9) as: "There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God." But they changed a very important word. The word in Greek is σαββατισμός (sabbatismos) which literally means "a Sabbath rest" or "a Sabbath keeping". What great disservice has been done to the Church, what great misunderstandings and false doctrine have arisen because of that unwarranted change! The entire idea of the Sabbath has been divorced from the rest of God that was its fulfillment ... a rest that we would find only in Christ ... and there in its full completeness.

This rest, this real Sabbath, is the product of our realizing that we have no hope of making ourselves good enough or pure enough or holy enough, and that we need to trust Him to do the work. But this does not happen without our cooperation. First we have to come to the realization in our daily living that we are totally incapable of living holy by our efforts; and so, in desperation, be willing to accept the truth— in my flesh, in myself, their dwells nothing good at all! (Romans 7:8) We have to totally despair of our own capacity to do anything for God. Then we have to daily take up our Cross, our symbol to self that we are dying to self ... in other words, that we are surrendering self-effort, self-direction, and self-will and trusting God both to will and to do what needs to be done in us. It means we need to daily surrender our lives to Him afresh. It means giving up our wants, our wisdom, our ways, and waiting upon His to be produced in us. This is how we enter His rest where we cease from our strivings and allow Him to do the work.

There is a very instructive passage on the Sabbath to be found in Isaiah. It reads, "If on the Sabbath you turn away your foot from doing your pleasure on My holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honorable; and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words ... " (Isaiah 58:13) This is a perfect picture of how we as Christians should daily live. It tells us that—as people who have entered salvation, who have entered the rest of God—we need to have an attitude of denial of self. It says that we are to honor God, not do our own ways, not find our own pleasure, not speak our own words. Think on that a moment. "Honor God!" Do we honor Him in our actions, our decisions, our words?

Through this verse in Isaiah, God is telling us that in His rest we should honor Him by NOT acting as WE want to act, NOT seeking the things that WE want to do, NOT speaking the words that spring from our OWN hearts and ideas. This is nothing but denying ourselves: just as Jesus said— "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me." (Luke 9:23) The problem is that we do not know how to deny ourselves. We are used to feeding our desires. And I am not speaking (necessarily) of illicit desires. I am speaking of our own wants: relaxation, TV, movies, sports, houses, cars, clothes, parties, vacations, toys, etc. I am speaking of responding to someone hurting us, or offending us. I am talking about planning our lives and living them for our satisfaction. I am talking about the "I" being more important than the "you", unless the "you" is someone who meets our approval. To surrender ALL of those things to Him is denying self. And denying self is a progressive work that results in progressive sanctification.

The process of this thing God calls sanctification is perfectly pictured in Paul's second letter to the Church at Corinth. There the Holy Spirit tells us that "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 from the Lord, the Spirit." (2 Corinthians 3:18 NASB)

Let's dissect that.

"We all" ... This is not speaking to the world but to saints. It is speaking to everybody who received Paul's epistle ... from the original Church at Corinth to all to whom it was circulated ... throughout the region, and throughout the centuries. It means "us".

"With unveiled face" ... Paul has just spoken of the veil that Moses wore over his face (2 Corinthians 3:13) so that Israel could not see the full glory of God on his face. He has stated that even today Israel cannot see God's true glory because that veil that still exists for them. But that does not apply to us, he is saying here; we get to see God without the hindrance of a veil to partially obscure Him. We get to see Him clearly.

"Beholding as in a mirror" ... The Greek word is κατοπτρίζομαι (katoptrizomai) which literally means to be "seen in a mirror" or "reflected in a mirror". As we look at Jesus Christ pictured in His Word and behold Him in humble and sincere prayer, we literally see Him. But we do not yet see Him in reality, as we shall when He appears in His Glory to take us home (1 John 3:2): at which time we shall be just like Him! Hallelujah! But because we are still in this flesh, we now see Him not in person but as though we were looking at His exact reflection in a mirror.

"Are being transformed" ... The word here is exactly the word used to describe the change in Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration: μεταμορφόω (metamorphoo). We get our word metamorphosis from it. In English we use it to describe, for example, the change from a caterpillar into a butterfly. It literally means a complete change in form, substance, nature, or shape. It is in the present tense here denoting an ongoing process.

"Into the same image" ... The same image as what? The Lord in His Glory! As incredible as it may seem, that is what we are being transformed into. Now it will not reach its final form until we see Christ in the flesh and are fully changed, at that exact moment when, as Paul says, "this corruptible shall put on incorruption and this mortal shall put on immortality." But the process has been initiated. The Greek word for "image" here is εἰκών (eikon) not ὁμοίωμα (homoioma); and that is important. Homoioma refers to the likeness of something without being actually of its nature. It may appear like to the form, but not the substance. For example, in Philippians 2:7 we are told that Jesus emptied Himself of His Godhood and took on the likeness (homoioma) of man. Christ came in the flesh and was LIKE fallen man; but He was in no way fallen for He was without original sin. So, while He took on the form of man, He did not take on man's nature. But eikon (from which we get our word "icon") literally means an exact image that represents the full substance of the original. For example in Colossians 1:15 we are told that Jesus "is the image (eikon) of the invisible God." He not only is like God, He IS God. What we saw in Christ was the very substance of the being of God. He was an exact representation of God. Brothers and sisters, THAT is what we are being transformed into!!! On this earth ... if so be that we permit the Holy Spirit to do His work in us. As I said, we will never achieve even close to that perfection while in these bodies; we must wait to become the eikons of Jesus Christ as He even now appears in Heaven; but we can certainly become the eikons of Jesus as He was when He was on this earth. And, in becoming so, we will possess real credibility and power in our witness of Him.

"From glory to glory" ... This phrase simply means that sanctification is a process of progression. We gradually become more and more possessed and displaying of God's glory ... of the honor, attributes and acts of God. In other words, we gradually become more and more like Jesus ... in the way we walk, the way we talk, the way we live.

"Just as from the Lord, the Spirit" ... Here we have one of the weaknesses of a more literal translation such as the NASB. The Greek is καθάπερ ἀπὸ κυρίου πνεύματος (kathaper apo kuriou pnuematos). It is literally as the NASB translates it. But the thought is better expressed otherwise. The word apo is a preposition that, when followed by a noun in the genitive case (as here) can mean either "from" or "out of" (Genitive of Source); "because of" (Genitive of Cause); or "by" or "from" (Genitive of Agency). Regardless of which of these genitives is considered, the phrase is a statement that this sanctification comes from God. Thus the better translation, I believe, is "even by the Spirit of the Lord."

Putting this all together, then— we are being taught that all Christians are able to see God as He is, without hindrance, not the actual Presence but an exact reflection as in a mirror. And therefore, as we steadfastly behold that image, we are progressively being changed into that very image ourselves, not by anything we do, but by the Holy Spirit. All we need to do is have our faith in the right place and person. As we trust completely in Jesus Christ and what He did for us on the Cross, and keep our faith exclusively in that, then the Holy Spirit is free to work in us that which HE wills, which is to transform us into that very reflection of Christ. And only then will we be able to witness in true "Holy Ghost power" (as the old preachers used to say.)

Some Christians can be very persuasive and through emotion or intellect get people to question their personal beliefs and consider Christ. But salvation itself can only come from the moving of the Holy Spirit in a heart. And a man or woman filled with the Holy Spirit, manifesting in their very life the truth that Christ is real and that He changes us, will win far more souls to a real salvation than all the clever persuaders in the world! Sanctification as we exist in this flesh may be optional when it comes to our going to Heaven: for it is Christ alone who has ministered our entrance there. But it is NOT optional if we are to serve God here on this earth.

There is great reward in allowing God to sanctify us. Turn back with me to Isaiah 58:13, for a moment. Remember, it said, "If on the Sabbath you turn away your foot from doing your pleasure on My holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honorable; and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words ... " Does that feel somewhat incomplete? It began with an "if"; and anything that begins with an "if" normally requires a "then". Where then is the "then" in verse 13? It's not there. However, you will find it at the beginning of verse 14: "Then ..." And what a promise it introduces!!! "Then shall you delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride upon the high places of the earth, and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father: for the mouth of the LORD has spoken it." (Isaiah 58:14) Wow! Hallelujah! If I enter into God's rest by choosing to deny myself, by choosing to surrender my walk, my will, my wisdom, my ways, even my words to His will, then He will give me the delight that can only be found in Him, the Delight for which all souls desire!!! And He will cause me to ride upon the high places of the earth! That's a Hebrew idiom meaning I will dwell in utter peace and security! And I will be fed with the heritage of Jacob, my father in faith: in other words I will receive all of the promises of God and all of the blessings of faith.

I pray all of what I have written above goes to answer the concerns of those who are confused about the purpose and the role of sanctification in a Christian's life, but instinctively KNOW that many (if not most) Christians and churches today are failing in their duty toward the very sinners for whom Christ came. Too often the world is not rejecting Christ, it is rejecting US. If we but hold Christ up He will draw people to Him. But we cannot hold Him up to others merely through words, it has to be through evidence in us that He is real.

That thought continually challenges me in my life. How about you?
 

mbrown1219

Heaven's Stables
Thank you Adrian for submitting to the Holy Spirit's leading in order to teach us these truths. May we all strive only to submit ourselves unto the LORD in faith that He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it.

I've recommended this on Google+ and I pray it gives many people true rest in the LORD.
 

jonshaff

Fellow Servant
Hallelujah! What a confirmation for me...This subject has been brought up 3 times in the last 2 days for me. Thank you Lord! And thank you brother Adrian for your obedience. Perfectly preached.

Edited...

Actually 4 times sanctification was brought up and my buddy said to me, sanctification is actually about doing less, not more...
 

livingskies

Well-Known Member
OK, this was very well written and makes sense... I can absolutely see how we are used to NOT denying ourselves, and society actually highly condones self pleasure - like spoiling ourselves. For myself, I struggle with food (weight issues) and see how I lack self control in denying myself in this way for one example (there are more too, materialistic type things)... But, what then? Deny myself, for the sake of denying myself? Deny myself that extra Oreo, does that please God? Or to what purpose is the denying for? Deny myself what I want (isn't that ascetecism or something like that?), that doesn't make me holier or more sanctified... I am a little mystified by this post. I need things spelled out in practical terms - Lol. If I can't see a practical application, it just kind of gets lost on me.... This is kinda where I am at this point in time actually.... I have very little people contact, except with my small kids, I already read them bible stories and talk about God. I can't leave them to do practical things for God, or spend time in prayer or things that require time/concentration, so I find myself back to surfing the net and buying/selling online, things that require very little concentration and can be done a minute here and there. I don't think it is what I should be doing, but without clear direction elsewhere I suppose I do it out of boredom and lack of opportunity to do anything more meaningful (eternity wise). I would looooove to have lived in the MK, rules, concrete direction, iron rod rule, all that stuff is way up my alley. OT Israel would have been great too, except that they failed so miserably at it, but in one of the few generations that was faithful to God - you had clear instructions for daily life, and lived with a bunch of people who all had the same beliefs and customs. Awesome. Nothing remotely like that now. Even people heavily into church don't have everyone around them all the time that are believers. Well, maybe some small pockets of people do, I sure don't. Fighting the stupid pagan easter bunny et al fertility goddess stuff this weekend.

Lol. Unless you are a rule lover too you won't understand ;).
 

Andrew

Well known member
Putting this all together, then— we are being taught that all Christians are able to see God as He is, without hindrance, not the actual Presence but an exact reflection as in a mirror. And therefore, as we steadfastly behold that image, we are progressively being changed into that very image ourselves, not by anything we do, but by the Holy Spirit. All we need to do is have our faith in the right place and person. As we trust completely in Jesus Christ and what He did for us on the Cross, and keep our faith exclusively in that, then the Holy Spirit is free to work in us that which HE wills, which is to transform us into that very reflection of Christ. And only then will we be able to witness in true "Holy Ghost power" (as the old preachers used to say.)
:thumbup
 

Hol

Worships Him
"Into the same image"
... The same image as what? The Lord in His Glory! As incredible as it may seem, that is what we are being transformed into. Now it will not reach its final form until we see Christ in the flesh and are fully changed, at that exact moment when, as Paul says, "this corruptible shall put on incorruption and this mortal shall put on immortality." But the process has been initiated. The Greek word for "image" here is εἰκών (eikon) not ὁμοίωμα (homoioma); and that is important. Homoioma refers to the likeness of something without being actually of its nature. It may appear like to the form, but not the substance. For example, in Philippians 2:7 we are told that Jesus emptied Himself of His Godhood and took on the likeness (homoioma) of man. Christ came in the flesh and was LIKE fallen man; but He was in no way fallen for He was without original sin. So, while He took on the form of man, He did not take on man's nature. But eikon (from which we get our word "icon") literally means an exact image that represents the full substance of the original. For example in Colossians 1:15 we are told that Jesus "is the image (eikon) of the invisible God." He not only is like God, He IS God. What we saw in Christ was the very substance of the being of God. He was an exact representation of God. Brothers and sisters, THAT is what we are being transformed into!!! On this earth ... if so be that we permit the Holy Spirit to do His work in us. As I said, we will never achieve even close to that perfection while in these bodies; we must wait to become the eikons of Jesus Christ as He even now appears in Heaven; but we can certainly become the eikons of Jesus as He was when He was on this earth. And, in becoming so, we will possess real credibility and power in our witness of Him.
Wow, thanks Pastor, I NEEDED this sermon, especially about His image. Pure, sincere milk of His Word ❤
 

mattfivefour

Administrator
Staff member
It is encouraging to learn that even a year or more after something is first delivered it can still touch hearts in Christ's service. Glory to His name!!! What an awesome God we serve!
 

Andrew

Well known member
What is sanctification?

Sanctification means to be set apart. In scripture it is always for God and for His own purposes. The Greek and Hebrew root words are translated in English both as “holy” and as “set apart”.

Who are the sanctified?

God views every believer in Jesus as being set apart from the moment of his or her conversion.

Why do we need to be sanctified?

The purpose of sanctification is to make us suitable for the presence and service of God. Scripture assures us that it rests on the finished work of Christ: “We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10). It is His own work: “For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.” (Hebrews 2:11-12).

But Scripture also tells us we need to be holy practically in order to be suitable to serve God here. “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1). So while we are regarded by God as sanctified from the day of our conversion, we do need to be holy in our lives here.

Here is an example (from J N Darby, Collected Writings, Vol. 16, p. 191)

“But here is what God has done: He has separated us to Himself, as a man hews stones out of a quarry. The stone is hewn out of the quarry and set apart, destined to be placed in the appointed building. And God detaches a soul from the quarry of this world to separate it for Himself.

There is much to do, for a rough stone cut out of the quarry often requires considerable labour before it is placed in the building for which it is destined. Even so God separates, prepares, and fashions this soul to introduce it into His spiritual building. There are many useless matters to take off, but God acts every day in His grace. Nevertheless, this soul is sanctified, set apart for God, from the moment it is taken out of the quarry of this world.”

How are we to be sanctified here?

The Lord’s prayer in John 17:16-17 is for His disciples (and for us), and there He prays “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” This is the practical effect on the believer of the word of God, producing practical holiness.

What is the result?

The result is a sanctified company of believers, with Christ in the centre, leading praise to His God and Father. We enjoy our part in this company as we are sanctified practically by the truth.
 

Hol

Worships Him
What is sanctification?

Sanctification means to be set apart. In scripture it is always for God and for His own purposes. The Greek and Hebrew root words are translated in English both as “holy” and as “set apart”.

Who are the sanctified?

God views every believer in Jesus as being set apart from the moment of his or her conversion.

Why do we need to be sanctified?

The purpose of sanctification is to make us suitable for the presence and service of God. Scripture assures us that it rests on the finished work of Christ: “We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10). It is His own work: “For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.” (Hebrews 2:11-12).

But Scripture also tells us we need to be holy practically in order to be suitable to serve God here. “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1). So while we are regarded by God as sanctified from the day of our conversion, we do need to be holy in our lives here.

Here is an example (from J N Darby, Collected Writings, Vol. 16, p. 191)

“But here is what God has done: He has separated us to Himself, as a man hews stones out of a quarry. The stone is hewn out of the quarry and set apart, destined to be placed in the appointed building. And God detaches a soul from the quarry of this world to separate it for Himself.

There is much to do, for a rough stone cut out of the quarry often requires considerable labour before it is placed in the building for which it is destined. Even so God separates, prepares, and fashions this soul to introduce it into His spiritual building. There are many useless matters to take off, but God acts every day in His grace. Nevertheless, this soul is sanctified, set apart for God, from the moment it is taken out of the quarry of this world.”

How are we to be sanctified here?

The Lord’s prayer in John 17:16-17 is for His disciples (and for us), and there He prays “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” This is the practical effect on the believer of the word of God, producing practical holiness.

What is the result?

The result is a sanctified company of believers, with Christ in the centre, leading praise to His God and Father. We enjoy our part in this company as we are sanctified practically by the truth.
:amen
Thy word is truth (John 17:17)
 

Almost Heaven

Well-Known Member
There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding concerning this topic. Many Christians who come to me are confused about the purpose of sanctification. Many do not even understand exactly what it is. Consequently I felt led to share this sermon some time ago. I have added a little to it and am re-posting it here for the benefit of newer members.
_____

God's purpose in our sanctification is not to make us ready for Heaven. We are already fit for heaven the second we are saved. What Jesus did on the Cross is fully sufficient to fully cleanse us and make us fully ready for eternal life with God. It is a gift given us by God’s grace alone, as a result of Christ’s work alone. This gift is applied to our hearts when we accept it by faith. And the Holy Spirit superintends all that transpires in our lives from that point on. We are, in God's eyes, perfectly holy, perfectly sanctified. But that is our position in Christ. Our condition in this world requires work. And that is the subject I want to demystify.

Simply put, God's purpose in our sanctification in this life is to show His Son to the world, so that the world may be attracted by Him. We are to BE witnesses, not just talk about Him. Unfortunately few Christians, it would seem from my experience, qualify as witnesses because it is hard to tell them from the world around them. Oh, they may talk a good game; but what do they SHOW? What is the overarching character of their life? Jesus did not say the world "will know them by the fact they do not smoke, drink, cuss, etc." He said, the world "will know them by their love."

Sanctification is not something WE do. It is something GOD does. We cannot manufacture our own sanctification. That is the clear teaching of Galatians 3:3. It is the Holy Spirit that produces sanctification in us and, as it grows, it is evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit— love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23a) Now some expositors try to teach that the fruit is progressive: in other words, that we first get love and then progress until we wind up with self-control. Poppycock! The Greek word for fruit (καρπός, karpos) refers to a full crop, to a harvest. The fruit of the Spirit is NOT any single one, even two or three, of these qualities— it is ALL of them together. Now we can have all of them together to a greater degree or lesser, but until we have them all together it is not the fruit of the Spirit ready for harvest.

As we have said, the fruit of the Spirit does not appear in our lives by means of our own efforts. Nor does it automatically appear because we have made a profession of Christ as our Savior and have been born again. Unfortunately, the various holiness churches fail to grasp that truth and exist because they believe either man can do the work that the Bible says only the Holy Spirit can do or that sanctification is an automatic possession of the saint. While it may be automatic in potential, it is not so in realization. No, while our sanctification has indeed been fully purchased at Calvary, just as surely as our salvation, unlike the latter it is neither automatic nor instantaneous. It requires a daily denying of self, dying to self, surrendering to Christ. And this has nothing to do with works! It has to do with focus and surrender. While true Christians believe that they cannot make themselves good enough or pure enough or holy enough to get saved by their own efforts, they retain the idea that they can make themselves good enough or pure enough or holy enough to be sanctified by their own efforts. After all, we have lived out our entire lives learning and knowing that if we need something done we have to do it. Either we do it directly or indirectly we ensure it is done. We have to act. We have to do something. That is how the natural man lives. But the spiritual man is not so. The spiritual man has to learn to live in God's rest.

Some Christian sects make a great deal of the keeping of the Old Testament Sabbath ... some on Saturday, some on Sunday (though Sunday is NOT the Sabbath). They are quite correct in discerning the importance the Bible places on it. But they are keeping the type, not the anti-type; the shadow, not the reality. You see the OT Sabbath was a picture of the rest we would find in Christ. Speaking to those who labored under every weight of the Law, trying to please God by their efforts, Jesus said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28) The writer of Hebrews explained, "The one who has entered God's rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His." (Hebrews 4:10) Now the KJV does not draw a relation between this rest and the Sabbath; but that is because the translators departed from their manuscripts. For what I can only presume were doctrinal reasons of the Church of England, they translated the previous verse (Hebrews 4:9) as: "There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God." But they changed a very important word. The word in Greek is σαββατισμός (sabbatismos) which literally means "a Sabbath rest" or "a Sabbath keeping". What great disservice has been done to the Church, what great misunderstandings and false doctrine have arisen because of that unwarranted change! The entire idea of the Sabbath has been divorced from the rest of God that was its fulfillment ... a rest that we would find only in Christ ... and there in its full completeness.

This rest, this real Sabbath, is the product of our realizing that we have no hope of making ourselves good enough or pure enough or holy enough, and that we need to trust Him to do the work. But this does not happen without our cooperation. First we have to come to the realization in our daily living that we are totally incapable of living holy by our efforts; and so, in desperation, be willing to accept the truth— in my flesh, in myself, their dwells nothing good at all! (Romans 7:8) We have to totally despair of our own capacity to do anything for God. Then we have to daily take up our Cross, our symbol to self that we are dying to self ... in other words, that we are surrendering self-effort, self-direction, and self-will and trusting God both to will and to do what needs to be done in us. It means we need to daily surrender our lives to Him afresh. It means giving up our wants, our wisdom, our ways, and waiting upon His to be produced in us. This is how we enter His rest where we cease from our strivings and allow Him to do the work.

There is a very instructive passage on the Sabbath to be found in Isaiah. It reads, "If on the Sabbath you turn away your foot from doing your pleasure on My holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honorable; and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words ... " (Isaiah 58:13) This is a perfect picture of how we as Christians should daily live. It tells us that—as people who have entered salvation, who have entered the rest of God—we need to have an attitude of denial of self. It says that we are to honor God, not do our own ways, not find our own pleasure, not speak our own words. Think on that a moment. "Honor God!" Do we honor Him in our actions, our decisions, our words?

Through this verse in Isaiah, God is telling us that in His rest we should honor Him by NOT acting as WE want to act, NOT seeking the things that WE want to do, NOT speaking the words that spring from our OWN hearts and ideas. This is nothing but denying ourselves: just as Jesus said— "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me." (Luke 9:23) The problem is that we do not know how to deny ourselves. We are used to feeding our desires. And I am not speaking (necessarily) of illicit desires. I am speaking of our own wants: relaxation, TV, movies, sports, houses, cars, clothes, parties, vacations, toys, etc. I am speaking of responding to someone hurting us, or offending us. I am talking about planning our lives and living them for our satisfaction. I am talking about the "I" being more important than the "you", unless the "you" is someone who meets our approval. To surrender ALL of those things to Him is denying self. And denying self is a progressive work that results in progressive sanctification.

The process of this thing God calls sanctification is perfectly pictured in Paul's second letter to the Church at Corinth. There the Holy Spirit tells us that "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 from the Lord, the Spirit." (2 Corinthians 3:18 NASB)

Let's dissect that.

"We all" ... This is not speaking to the world but to saints. It is speaking to everybody who received Paul's epistle ... from the original Church at Corinth to all to whom it was circulated ... throughout the region, and throughout the centuries. It means "us".

"With unveiled face" ... Paul has just spoken of the veil that Moses wore over his face (2 Corinthians 3:13) so that Israel could not see the full glory of God on his face. He has stated that even today Israel cannot see God's true glory because that veil that still exists for them. But that does not apply to us, he is saying here; we get to see God without the hindrance of a veil to partially obscure Him. We get to see Him clearly.

"Beholding as in a mirror" ... The Greek word is κατοπτρίζομαι (katoptrizomai) which literally means to be "seen in a mirror" or "reflected in a mirror". As we look at Jesus Christ pictured in His Word and behold Him in humble and sincere prayer, we literally see Him. But we do not yet see Him in reality, as we shall when He appears in His Glory to take us home (1 John 3:2): at which time we shall be just like Him! Hallelujah! But because we are still in this flesh, we now see Him not in person but as though we were looking at His exact reflection in a mirror.

"Are being transformed" ... The word here is exactly the word used to describe the change in Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration: μεταμορφόω (metamorphoo). We get our word metamorphosis from it. In English we use it to describe, for example, the change from a caterpillar into a butterfly. It literally means a complete change in form, substance, nature, or shape. It is in the present tense here denoting an ongoing process.

"Into the same image" ... The same image as what? The Lord in His Glory! As incredible as it may seem, that is what we are being transformed into. Now it will not reach its final form until we see Christ in the flesh and are fully changed, at that exact moment when, as Paul says, "this corruptible shall put on incorruption and this mortal shall put on immortality." But the process has been initiated. The Greek word for "image" here is εἰκών (eikon) not ὁμοίωμα (homoioma); and that is important. Homoioma refers to the likeness of something without being actually of its nature. It may appear like to the form, but not the substance. For example, in Philippians 2:7 we are told that Jesus emptied Himself of His Godhood and took on the likeness (homoioma) of man. Christ came in the flesh and was LIKE fallen man; but He was in no way fallen for He was without original sin. So, while He took on the form of man, He did not take on man's nature. But eikon (from which we get our word "icon") literally means an exact image that represents the full substance of the original. For example in Colossians 1:15 we are told that Jesus "is the image (eikon) of the invisible God." He not only is like God, He IS God. What we saw in Christ was the very substance of the being of God. He was an exact representation of God. Brothers and sisters, THAT is what we are being transformed into!!! On this earth ... if so be that we permit the Holy Spirit to do His work in us. As I said, we will never achieve even close to that perfection while in these bodies; we must wait to become the eikons of Jesus Christ as He even now appears in Heaven; but we can certainly become the eikons of Jesus as He was when He was on this earth. And, in becoming so, we will possess real credibility and power in our witness of Him.

"From glory to glory" ... This phrase simply means that sanctification is a process of progression. We gradually become more and more possessed and displaying of God's glory ... of the honor, attributes and acts of God. In other words, we gradually become more and more like Jesus ... in the way we walk, the way we talk, the way we live.

"Just as from the Lord, the Spirit" ... Here we have one of the weaknesses of a more literal translation such as the NASB. The Greek is καθάπερ ἀπὸ κυρίου πνεύματος (kathaper apo kuriou pnuematos). It is literally as the NASB translates it. But the thought is better expressed otherwise. The word apo is a preposition that, when followed by a noun in the genitive case (as here) can mean either "from" or "out of" (Genitive of Source); "because of" (Genitive of Cause); or "by" or "from" (Genitive of Agency). Regardless of which of these genitives is considered, the phrase is a statement that this sanctification comes from God. Thus the better translation, I believe, is "even by the Spirit of the Lord."

Putting this all together, then— we are being taught that all Christians are able to see God as He is, without hindrance, not the actual Presence but an exact reflection as in a mirror. And therefore, as we steadfastly behold that image, we are progressively being changed into that very image ourselves, not by anything we do, but by the Holy Spirit. All we need to do is have our faith in the right place and person. As we trust completely in Jesus Christ and what He did for us on the Cross, and keep our faith exclusively in that, then the Holy Spirit is free to work in us that which HE wills, which is to transform us into that very reflection of Christ. And only then will we be able to witness in true "Holy Ghost power" (as the old preachers used to say.)

Some Christians can be very persuasive and through emotion or intellect get people to question their personal beliefs and consider Christ. But salvation itself can only come from the moving of the Holy Spirit in a heart. And a man or woman filled with the Holy Spirit, manifesting in their very life the truth that Christ is real and that He changes us, will win far more souls to a real salvation than all the clever persuaders in the world! Sanctification as we exist in this flesh may be optional when it comes to our going to Heaven: for it is Christ alone who has ministered our entrance there. But it is NOT optional if we are to serve God here on this earth.

There is great reward in allowing God to sanctify us. Turn back with me to Isaiah 58:13, for a moment. Remember, it said, "If on the Sabbath you turn away your foot from doing your pleasure on My holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honorable; and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words ... " Does that feel somewhat incomplete? It began with an "if"; and anything that begins with an "if" normally requires a "then". Where then is the "then" in verse 13? It's not there. However, you will find it at the beginning of verse 14: "Then ..." And what a promise it introduces!!! "Then shall you delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride upon the high places of the earth, and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father: for the mouth of the LORD has spoken it." (Isaiah 58:14) Wow! Hallelujah! If I enter into God's rest by choosing to deny myself, by choosing to surrender my walk, my will, my wisdom, my ways, even my words to His will, then He will give me the delight that can only be found in Him, the Delight for which all souls desire!!! And He will cause me to ride upon the high places of the earth! That's a Hebrew idiom meaning I will dwell in utter peace and security! And I will be fed with the heritage of Jacob, my father in faith: in other words I will receive all of the promises of God and all of the blessings of faith.

I pray all of what I have written above goes to answer the concerns of those who are confused about the purpose and the role of sanctification in a Christian's life, but instinctively KNOW that many (if not most) Christians and churches today are failing in their duty toward the very sinners for whom Christ came. Too often the world is not rejecting Christ, it is rejecting US. If we but hold Christ up He will draw people to Him. But we cannot hold Him up to others merely through words, it has to be through evidence in us that He is real.

That thought continually challenges me in my life. How about you?
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