For our midweek services we have been studying Wayne Grudem’s book “Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know.” Last night we studied chapter 15 on sanctification and perseverance. I really believe confusion about sanctification is the source of a huge amount of discouragement in the lives of Christians today. So here are 5 ways ways we go off the rails.
#1 Confusing sanctification with justification
This is absolutely is a massive problem for us. Justification is that empowering, liberating, joy-bringing gospel truth that God is not mad at us anymore. Romans 8:1 reminds us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus. Over and over again the bible teaches us that the just will live by faith. (Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, Hebrews 10:38, Habakkuk 2:4) This faith, πίστη , pronounced “písti” in the greek, is a lot more then just agreeing in your mind to a statement, but it is truly placing your trust in God. The moment we do that, we are declared not guilty in the eyes of God. In fact when God the Father looks upon us from heaven, all He see’s is the son whom he loves. He sees the perfect life and death of Jesus. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Sanctification on the other hand, is a big word that just means we still have a lot of growth to experience in our lived experience. Before God we may be legally blameless, and He may love us as His children, yet we still have many sins in our lives to overcome. Justification is complete, already done, and instantaneous the moment we place our faith in Jesus. Sanctification is incomplete, it’s a journey, and it is also accomplished as we continue to trust more and more in the Lord.
#2 We are looking for growth to be instantaneous!
You know how some folks need to be delivered from “get rich quick schemes”? Well a lot of christians also need to be delivered from “get holy quick” and “get healed quick” schemes.
Sometimes these schemes have names like baptism of the holy spirit, or just learning the secret of surrendering to God. It can be described as, trying to row your boat with a tooth pick, you just won’t get anywhere, but if you just knew how to grab those oars that God has made, now you move without effort! We must understand and experience the filling of the Spirit, God want’s you to surrender to Him deeply! But there is absolutely no promise that if we just do XYZ we will now be “smooth sailing” without any effort of our own.
We are confusing glorification and sanctification! Glorification is when ‘we see him, and become. just as He is.’ (1 John 3:2, Romans 8:30) after we die. We have to admit that while we still live in these old bodies, we have not yet arrived! We are all works in progress, till the day we die. One of the first fruits of the spirit God needs to work in us is patience, because we are often way too hard on ourselves. God’s word couldn’t be anymore clear we will not reach perfection in this life! Here are a few so you don’t even have to look them up and there is no doubt in your heart.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23.
“There is certainly no one righteous on the earth who does good and never sins.” Ecclesiastes 7:20.
“If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” 1st John 1:10.
#3 We are naive about how far we will reach in this life.
This is really similar to #2 but worth stating. Not only do we think we are going to grow instantly be healed, we also imagine that we are going to conqueror every issue we have, once we enter into that next stage of life. You know all your issues of loneliness, we tell ourselves that will be solved by marriage, but it wont. We tell ourselves we won’t repeat the mistakes of our parents when we have children, and maybe we don’t but it definitely isn’t as easy as we imagine. We deeply underestimate what the bible means when it teaches us “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it?” in Jeremiah 17:9.
#4 We don’t understand what is lost if we ignore our spiritual growth.
On the other hand, maybe we are the type that is a bit more realistic about how deep our brokeness is. We might be tempted to ignore our spiritual growth. We might even tell ourselves “God will forgive me.” God forbid this guys!
When we don’t pursue God we experience deep losses.
- Loss of our connection with God. We no longer hear his voice guiding us, the Spirit’s work of bringing sorrow over our sin becomes weaker and weaker and we wander from His way comforting us in our pain and stress.. (1 John 1:6)
- Loss of usefulness for God. When we forget we have been forgiven, we become spiritual amnesiacs, and we become ‘unproductive’ in our faith, which is a great loss! (2 Peter 1:8)
- Loss of power in God. Sometimes we don’t even realize the power God wants us to enjoy! (Psalm 32)
- Loss of joy from God. A joyless Christian should be a contradiction, yet how many of us walk around in this state. Without His joy we won’t have strength to face this life. (Psalm 51)
#5 We don’t believe in deep victory in this life.
While perfection will have to wait till heaven, faithfulness and victory over sin is absolutely the expectation God has for every single one of us. Ephesians 6:13 tell’s us “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” We are told again and again, that God wants us to live a life of joy, productivity, and deep fellowship with him. We don’t allow the remaining indwelling sin in our lives, cause us to walk around with our head down in condemnation.
Some believer’s seem to emphasize this victory so much, that it can lead to spirit of religiosity, hypocrisy and pride if you feel like you are doing it, and if you don’t feel absolutely crushed, and wonder if you are a real christian at all. Other’s talk about the gospel as mainly a set of doctrinal statements they accept as true and expect very little change in their hearts and behaviors right now. May our Church be a hospital for the spiritually sick, where they actually get well! May we never settle for Church to simply be a hospice, where folks just go to get the morphine drip of teachings on God’s grace to ease our soul, but never strive after scantificaltion in this life!
#6 We don’t understand our role in sanctification.
So a lot could be said on this issue but I want to leave you with something practical and helpful. Do you know what the fruit of the spirit is? We learn about them in Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” How do you measure your sanctification? Well the simple answer is LOVE… Paul write’s to the Galatians and speaks of the singular ‘fruit’ not the ‘fruits’. However he continues on to describe what this love working itself out in our soul is going to look like.
Here is the thing though, you can’t produce, love, joy, peace and etc.. in your heart! It is the fruit of the Spirit! So your entire goal in life is to get the Spirit. Do you want to grow? You want the Spirit. You want to change? You want the Spirit. You want joy and power? You need the Spirit. Far too often we have judged spiritual growth based on ‘discipline’ and ‘knowledge.’ But I tell you what there are plenty of folks with military style lives without that fruit of love in their lives. You can find plenty of people who are homeless and riddled with mental health and addiction issues who are out quote you with bible verses. So STOP ACTING LIKE this is the path to Spiritual growth!
I remember hearing someone say “being born again makes it a lot easier to be a Pastor.” It’s a funny ironic statement, but I want to be be bold and brave here and tell you, that one of the reasons we don’t experience the Holy Spirit in our lives is that we have yet to be born again! You have yet to personally encounter Jesus, and truly look to Him to be your Lord and Savior. This is both the beginning of Spiritual Life but also the fountain, that will continue to water the rest of your spiritual life. Don’t be like the Galatians that start off in the Spirit then try to complete their walk in the flesh! (Galatians 3)
So how do you grow in the Spirit? You got to start with the cross. You have to actually start with God’s forgiveness. The same faith that justifies you, that allows God to place the perfect record of His Son on you, is exactly the same faith that will transform your life day to day. You have to seek every opportunity to be humbled. Let’s end with the words of James chapter 4:6-10.
“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
I will write a follow up blog on what that actually looks like in our lives. But for now I want you to get this in your heart. Punching your ‘time card’ of church attendance, bible memorization, and all the conferences in the world with all the Spirit filled men and women in the world will not ever be enough to sanctify you if you do not humble yourself. If you do not come to the realization you can not muster up ‘love’ in your own soul. Humble yourself and ask Him for His Spirit to dwell in you. Pray that God would comfort you, convict you of sin, produce in you the virtues of Jesus. As you trust Him for heaven alone, TRUST HIM alone for Godliness in this life!