Sanctification – Onward and Upward! (Notes)
By Nick Bibile
Php 3:13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
There was a poor man in the church who wanted to be a missionary. The pastor examined the man and asked him to define justification and the man gave the correct answer. Then he asked my brother what is sanctification? He said, “Sanctification sir, is a God possessed soul.”
Last week we saw the negative side of sanctification. When a person is born again to the kingdom of God, there is a hatred for sin. The negative side is saying “No” to passions of this flesh and the world, no to sin. Negative side is to tear down those pet, darling sins. Today we are going to see the positive side, which is, “Yes” to godliness, yes to holiness. On one side, we are saying no to ungodliness and does not stay at one place but moving onward and upward, saying YES to godliness.
Titus 2:12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.
Jonathan Edwards speaks of the great awakening, when he said the following.
“These awakenings when they have first seized on persons, have had two effects; one was, that they have brought them immediately to quit their sinful practices.” Then he goes on to say, “The other effect was, that it put them on earnest application to the means of salvation, reading, prayer, meditation, the ordinances of God’s house, and private conference.”
In this sermon, we will see if the following are true.
Is it possible for a born again Christian to stay without any growth?
Is there are second blessing in sanctification, which we have the spiritual Christians and the carnal Christians?
Is sanctification product of your own righteousness?
Is sanctification totally by the Holy Spirit?
It is impossible for someone to profess himself a Christian and to remain without any growth, not producing any fruits. (Read John 15:5-6; Philippians 3:12-15)
The new man, the new seed bring life. There is no growth without life. If you put an imitation plant in the ground, water it everyday it will remain the same. There is no growth as it is an imitation, a counterfeit. Looks like real but no real growth. There are some in the church that looks like Christians as they profess Christian but there is no genuine conversion, as we do not see any fruits in them.
I am going to give a metaphor of a tree so we can understand the growth of sanctification. Our sanctification is like a living tree; it did not grow instantly but takes a lot of time. First, a seed is planted. The seed needs to plant in good soil. (Eze 17:8; Luke 8:8) The good soil is the new heart. They will hear and obey.
This seed has to die for it is to be rooted. In the same way the old man needs to be put to death daily, in this life we cannot kill the old totally but need to crucify the flesh daily for the new man to live.
Eph 4:22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.
In the good soil the plants grows in two ways, downward in humility and upward in knowledge. Humility is saying no to the flesh and yes to God. The plants get rooted and the same way the new Christian is rooted in the true faith of Christ. (John 15:4)
The tree gets its water from above. You can have a good soil but without water, the plant will die. Jesus is the living water for the new soul; he is the fountain of life. The Holy Spirit daily gives the believer the living water.
Col 2:7 Rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
1Pe 2:2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.
As the plant begins to grow upward, the believer’s aim is to grow upward in holiness. Sometimes there will be bad weather, storms, heavy wind that can affect the growth of the tree but when the tree endures the hardships, it will become stronger.
In the same way the believers onward and upwards toward holiness will vary. Sometimes erratic and sometimes regular, there are ups and downs but overall it is growing upwards. Sometimes the believer can have a very serious fall but he will be restored by the grace of God.
This shows the believer is not perfect, he will be wounded by sin, hospitalized but he will be healed and grow stronger. The believer will walk in the beautiful plains of green grass then he will climb those difficult rugged mountains, go through the valleys of death.
In these difficult times, the Holy Spirit will preserve the Christian. In sanctification, we see the negative side, the positive side and preservation. He will be preserved to the end.
Joh 6:37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
But generally there is a progress in the growth of the tree and will bear fruits. In the same way there is a progress of the believers growth and bear fruits. This is the evidence of the genuine conversion.
In the positive side of sanctification, the new believer has the image of God in embryonic form but it begins to develop in the process of sanctification. When he becomes older and older, the flesh will become weak but the spirit will become stronger as he grows from strength to strength. When he dies, he will see the beauty of the King of Glory and he will be perfect in his glorious state in heaven.
There is no second blessing in sanctification. No carnal Christians and super spiritual Christians. We all have some carnal ways in us as we are not perfect but there is there is diligent labor on behalf of the Christian to work out our salvation.
You may have seen on Bumper stickers, which say. “Let go and Let God.” Some people believe you do not have to do anything on sanctification, let yourself go and let God do it. They believe in pietism, which says sanctification is totally by the Holy Spirit.
Php 2:12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
There is hard labor involved in sanctification. Working out your own salvation does not mean, you have to find your own way to heaven with your good works, but salvation is a gift. (Read verse 13, it is God who works in you.)
Is sanctification product of your own righteousness? The Bible says our righteousness is like a filthy rag to the Lord.
There are some so called Christians boast of their holiness. There were some in a group how they were boasting of their holiness. There was another Christian who was quiet, and then one asked the other Christian "Have you no holiness?" "Yes," he said, "but I never had any to boast of."
The word salvation also means preserve. This scripture has to do with sanctification, to carry out the work of salvation you received. God is working and I am working.
How? With fear and trembling. When you are confronted with the passions and the pleasures of this world, there is a fear and trembling to avoid, when you are tempted by the flesh there is a fear and trembling to avoid. When you have not diligently read the word of God, prayed, not been obedience in your growth there is a fear and trembling asking what am I doing.
Sanctification is not a three easy steps formula but a life long process of diligent disciplined labor. There are so many people who call themselves Christians; they have a profession of faith but not a true conversion. In sanctification, we see God is working and I am working. We see the new man in the true Christian, the new nature of born of the spirit, the Holy Spirit living in the believer and the change of lifestyle. By their fruits, we know that they are sanctified. Fruits are truly manifested when they are confronted by temptations and pressures.
“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling.” - 2 Timothy 1:9
Our Goal should be to be like our Lord. To be conformed to his image, to imitate him, follow him is sanctification.
The key word in positive sanctification is the word “Holiness.” The vessel has to be clean to be used by the Holy Spirit. God cannot use a dirty vessel. The vessel has to be separated unto God for his glory. I am grieved to see famous reformed professors who are strong in their doctrine but enjoying the pleasures of this world. I am going to quote C.H. Spurgeon
“My longing is that the churches may be holy. I grieve to see so much of worldliness conformity. How often wealth leads men astray, how many Christians follow the fashion of this wicked world. It is a shameful thing for a professor of Christianity to be found in those music halls, saloons and places of revelry where you cannot go without your morals being polluted.”
During the time of Spurgeon and the Puritans, there were no movies, no Hollywood style of enjoyments. If they were living, today how much more they will be against the carnal indulging pleasures of this world. Puritanism did not come with the knowledge of God only but accompanied with holiness, the purity of life. Oh my friend, our lifestyle should be match what we preach. An unholy church is useless to the Lord and useless to the world. The pastor’s calling is to preach the word, administrate the sacraments and to promote holiness in the church.
In our modern world, some of the reformed pastors cannot open their sermon without telling a joke for the audience to laugh. However, George Whitefield said, “I did not come hear to tickle you but to speak to your soul.”
C. H. Spurgeon said, “Let us aspire to saintliness of spirit and character. I am persuaded that the greatest power we can get over our fellowmen is the power which comes of consecration and holiness.” There are too many ministries are compromising holiness and sin, this far too prevalent in our society today, this does not come from the Spirit of God but of the spirit of the world.
Spurgeon also said, “I see the spirit of compromise concerning holiness and sin, truth and error, far too prevalent. The spirit of compromise comes not of the Spirit of God, but of the spirit of the world.”
Holiness is our pleasure and purity is our delight.
Let us practice holiness. Holiness is the visible side of salvation; it shows that we are truly saved by the one and only Holy God. The doctrines of grace should be accompanied with holiness. (Eph 1:4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love) Good works is not the cause of salvation but the result of salvation is good works and holiness. What good is it if the church is not holy? The true gospel will lead us to holiness. Holy Spirit in us will make us holy. Without holiness, no man will see God.
How do you know that you are chosen? Spurgeon answered by saying.
“If he desires holiness, if he longs to be the Lord's, and if that desire be true, he is chosen already.”
Do you desire after holiness? Are you longing to be with the Lord?
Spurgeon said, “ We must labor for holiness of character. What is holiness? Is it not wholeness of character? Holiness is life.”
Jonathan Edwards speaks of the holy affections of the Christian. There is a new appetite and a thirst of the new man. Jonathan Edwards said, “There is an inward burning desire that a saint has after holiness.” Edwards went on to say, “There is a holy breathing and panting after the Spirit of God, to increase holiness, as natural to a holy nature, as breathing is to a living body. And holiness or sanctification is more directly the object of it.”
At the fall the image of God was broken, we lost communication with God. When the communication was lost, we were enmity with God. At the recreation, when a man is born again the lost image was restored in sanctification and there is a communication between God and man.