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Bible Search
Sanctification: Wholly Holy!
Key Words of the Christian Life
Sanctification: Wholly Holy!
I Thessalonians 4:1-3
 
For the last six weeks we’ve taken an in-depth look at six different aspects of salvation.  And I’ve said to you, these components are the essentials.  If you don’t understand these six doctrines, you will never fully understand or appreciate your salvation. 
 
We began with justification.  Justification is that divine miracle whereby God declares righteous the sinner who believes in Jesus.
 
We then looked at propitiation.  It means to appease or turn away wrath by the offering of a gift or sacrifice.  
 
Next came reconciliation.  It is the to win over to friendliness; to settle an argument or dispute; to bring into agreement or harmony.
 
Fourth is regeneration.  We defined it as work of God by which He changes your soul so that with a new mind and heart you love, trust and follow Him.
 
Then the Bible talks about redemption which is to set free by the payment of a price or ransom. 
 
And finally, we looked at adoption, which is the legal act of permanently placing a child with a parent or guardian other than the birth parents.
 
Now all those words deal with some aspect of our salvation, helping us to understand, not only how we enter the family of God, but once there, what changes and how it affects us.
 
My standing as a sinner is changed.  Jesus has made a sacrifice that results in God’s anger being appeased so that I’m no longer an enemy of God.  Instead, I’ve been remade into a brand new person and because the sin dept has been paid, I’m not only free, I’m a part of God’s family with full rights and privileges. 
 
Our salvation is so multi-faceted and complex that it takes us from courtroom to the mercy seat to the fellowship hall to the delivery room to the slave block and back to the courtroom! 
 
And I’m afraid, far too many of God’s children really have no appreciation or gratitude for what He’s done for us.  The reason I believe that is true is because of the way we so often live. 
 
Salvation doesn’t stand in isolation.  The change that has taken place inwardly, if it is real, will always express itself outwardly. 
 
That’s why I want to turn the corner today and next week and deal with two more words that are vitally connected to the salvation experience. 
 
One of those words is sanctification.  And as we’ve done with the others, I want to begin with
 
  1.  A Definition
Sanctification is progressive growth in righteousness.  It is a process whereby we are to become less and less of what we used to be and more and more of what God wants us to be. The will of God is your sanctification.
 
God is saying, “I want your daily life to be more and more free from the practice of sin and more and more dedicated and consecrated to the Lord so that your Christian life demonstrates that you have indeed been changed and made a new creation in Jesus.”
 
To put it very simply, when you get saved, God’s will and plan in saving you is not just to allow you to miss heaven, but to cause you to become more and more like His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  I like to say it like this:  God is so tickled with Jesus Christ, He just wants to reproduce Him over and over and over again. 
 
The goal of sanctification is to bring to reality all the things that have been done in salvation.  For instance, in justification He has declared us to be righteous.  Now we are to become righteous.  With adoption He has brought us into the family and given us full privileges and rights as an adult.  Now it’s time to live that out. 
 
To help us understand that, let’s turn to 1 Thessalonians 4. If we had time, we could back up to chapter 3, and there we would find the Apostle Paul talking a great deal about faith. In fact, five times in that chapter he talks about faith.
 
Then when he hits chapter 4, he begins with the words, “finally then”.  In other translations it is “furthermore” or “therefore”.  It is an indicator that what he’s about to say builds upon what has previously been said. 
 
In the first part of the letter, he gives doctrine and beliefs, then, having laid these foundational doctrines of the faith, he begins to make it practical.  He first tells us what we are to believe then goes on to tell us how we are to behave.
 
The key word in chapter 4 is the word sanctification.   He mentions it several times in these verses.  You see it in verse 3 and again in verse 4 and later in verse 7 where it appears as “holiness”.  
 
Now the word, sanctification or holiness, occurs twelve times in the New Testament and every time it is indicating this process of becoming like Christ that follows our conversion. 
 
That is
  1. An Expectation
In fact, verse 3 says it is the “will of God”.  Now that’s an interesting statement.  It’s not uncommon from time to time to for someone to talk to me about how to know God’s will. 
 
How can I know God's will for my life? Who is God's will for me to marry? What is God's will for me to do in life? How do I know the will of God? How can I find the will of God? It is a big question in the minds of people who don’t want to mess up and get out of God’s will. 
I think it important to remember, when it comes to knowing God’s will, there are some things that are specifically spelled out in the Bible as being the will of God and there is no question about them. 
 
For instance, in chapter 5, verse 18 of this book, Paul writes, "In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." There are some things you can know are the will of God and being thankful is one of them. 
 
It is God’s will for you to be a thankful person. You can know that's God's will. You don't have to go to God in prayer and say, "Oh, Lord, do you want me to be thankful?" The Bible says this is the will of God.
 
If you are lost I can absolutely say to you that it is God's will for you to be saved. The Bible says, "God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”  That’s God’s will.  You can know, if you are lost, that God wants you to be saved.  It doesn’t matter how bad you’ve been, how far you’ve gone, how far from God you think you are, God wants you saved. 
 
So you always start with what you know is God's will and here in 1 Thessalonians 4 we have a verse that says our sanctification is God’s will. 
 
Now keep in mind, this letter to the Corinthians was written to a group of brand new Christians. These people had just been saved.  And as he writes, he makes certain they understand the faith and how they are saved, but the very next thing he says to them is “Here’s what God expects:  It is God’s will that you live a sanctified, separated, different–from-the-world kind of life.”
God wants you, expects you to be sanctified. God wants you to be holy. Sp what does that mean? Does it mean that God expects perfection out of us? Does it mean you are to get to a certain level in your life where you do not sin anymore?  Some people believe that and teach that.  But that’s not what it says. 
 
Some people allow that to keep them from being saved.  They’ll say, “I know I can’t live the life and do what I’m supposed to”, and they refuse to be saved.  But that’s not Biblical teaching. 
 
That’s why our study of these words is so critical.  Remember, I told you they are important to an understanding of the Christian life.
 
Think about the word justification. The moment you repent of your sins and receive Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, the Bible says you are declared righteous and now stand before God just as if you had never sinned. I am positional perfect in the eyes of God.  That's how the Christian life begins.
 
Next week we’re going to look at glorification.  That’s what happens when my actions catch up with my standing.  One of these days what God declared about me will be absolutely true in every aspect of me.  Glorification is when I am changed to be like Christ, I get a brand new, resurrected body and I will forever be free from the influence and power of sin. 
 
Then and only then will we become everything God has saved us to be. That's glorification. 
Now in between those two words falls sanctification and together, those three terms summarize the whole Christian life: Justification, sanctification and glorification.
 
Justification means I am saved from sin. Glorification means I shall be saved from sin. Sanctification means I am being saved from sin.
 
Justification means I am saved from the penalty of sin. Glorification means I will be saved from the presence of sin. Sanctification means I am being saved from the practice of sin.  Now the verse says, "This is the will of God, even your sanctification."
 
And dear friend, I want you to know, it will happen.  That is the expectation.
 
  1.  The Application 
Now sanctification, or to be sanctified, means to be set apart. It was used in the Old Testament to refer to certain inanimate objects. For instance, vessels that were used in the temple were sanctified.  There were certain pans and bowls that were to be used in the temple and set them apart for that specific use. 
 
That’s the idea with the sanctification of a believer. 
When God saved you, He set you apart. He says you belong to me. You are special.
 
There is one sense in which sanctification is just like justification and glorification in that it is an event.    When we are saved, we are sanctified as to our position. We have now been set apart to the Lord.
 
In 1 Corinthians 1:2, Paul wrote to "the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that ARE sanctified." That's our position. You ARE sanctified.
 
Later he would say to them, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And 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.”
 
So when God saved you, you were sanctified. That is, He set you apart. You belong to Him.  But on the practical side of the word, there is a process involved. 
 
Listen to  Hebrews 12:14
 
Sanctification is not only an event, it is also a process. It is something you pursue. It is something you follow after.
 
That’s what we have in I Thessalonians 4.  Paul is referencing the process that is to go on in your life.  It initiates with our salvation and continues until, ultimately, we are glorified. 
 
Now it seems to me there is a disconnect in modern Christianity between what Christians believe and how they behave. Somewhere, somehow, along the way, Christians (not all, but some) have failed to understand that what they believe is to impact their behavior.
If you want to make that very personal, then just evaluate your own life and ask yourself some simple, straight-forward questions.  How did being a Christian affect your life this week? How did it affect you at school? How did it affect you on your job? How did it affect you as a husband or wife? In the meetings you attended? In the conversations you had? How did being a Christian affect your life today?
 
Unfortunately, for many people who say they are Christians, their Christian faith has very little to do with their daily life. That's one of the reasons Christians receive some of the criticism that they do. When Christians are inconsistent in their lifestyle and in their behavior, it brings unfavorable impression upon their faith and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
 
The New Testament says to us that what you believe as a Christian and your experience with Jesus Christ is to improve your behavior. It is to cause you to live life on a higher level.
 
Verses 1-2
 
Notice, sanctification involves walking. Living a life of sanctification is a walk. When you read these verses about walking and pleasing God, keep in mind he’s talking about everyday life. 
 
Now notice what the text says. Paul says, in so many words, “I took what the Lord said and taught you how to walk and please God so you could do His will and live a sanctified life.”
 
Now bring that all the way up-to-date and ask yourself this:  From where do I get my instruction? 
If we were to watch your life, would it testify that your instructions for how to walk and live and act and respond came from the Lord or from somewhere else? 
 
What if we listened to your language?  And I’m not just talking about off-color jokes and crude words. 
I’m talking about the wisdom and counsel that you offer to others.  Is it Biblical and Scriptural or is it just the wisdom of the world? 
 
Where did you get your decisions for how you will treat people on the job? Is it just the way it's done in the business world or did you get it from the commandments of God?
 
Christians are living in a secular atmosphere. This is nothing new. Listen:  what you are going through at school or at your job or in your home is nothing new. Christians have always lived in a secular society.   
 
The pressure has always been on Christians to go against the grain.  It is always there and we need to be reminded we do not get to live our values.  You don’t get to set your own standards. You don’t get to follow your own directions for behavior from the culture around you.
 
We get our instructions from the commandments of God.  How does God say I'm to talk? How does God say I'm to act? How does God say I'm to live?  We are to be obeying the commandments of God.
 
Jesus said it this way in in His prayer in John 17:17:  "Sanctify them by Your truth.  Your Word is truth.”
 
This is where the truth is. A lot of people have been deceived.  They accept as truth what they read in magazines or see on the internet. They take as truth what they hear in songs. They listen to the news or the media or, God forbid, FaceBook. 
 
But the Word of God is truth and it is the only truth. And it is only as we study the Word and apply the Word to our daily behavior that we are sanctified. We become more like the Lord wants us to be and less of the way we are.
 
Then, beginning in verse 3 and following, and we won’t take the time to look at all of it, Paul begins to list some very specific areas where sanctification is to make a difference. 
 
Verse 3-6
 
Now sanctification is both a positive truth and it is also a negative truth. 
 
Positively, we are to dedicate and consecrate ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ. Put Jesus first in our lives. Live totally for Him. Consecrate ourselves totally to live the way Jesus wants us to live. Be completely committed to the Lord Jesus Christ. That's the positive. 
 
There is also a negative. If you will live a sanctified life, there are some things you’re going to have to stay away from.  Paul uses the example of sexual sin. 
 
Now without going into all the particulars of individual sins, let me just say anytime God puts a restriction on us, it is for our good.
And again, here is why we need to depend upon the instruction of God’s Word and not listen to the wisdom of the world or our friends.
 
The world will tell you God is just restrictive.  He’s out to ruin your life and destroy all your fun.  And if you aren’t careful you’ll be tempted to believe God is being unfair or unkind or both.  It happened with Eve and I doubt you are any smarter or stronger than was she.      
 
Listen:  It's not that God is trying to restrict you or cause you not to have fun. God loves you. He doesn't want you to hurt yourself. He doesn't want you to soil yourself.   
 
God is more concerned about your well-being than you are yourself.  And at the same time, God is trying to protect your integrity so that when you are identified as a Christian there will be some credibility to your faith. 
 
That’s why he warns Paul’s hearers in verse 5 to not live like the world that doesn’t know God. 
 
He has called us to something better.
 
Verse 7
 
We are called to live a life of sanctification.  We have been set apart from sin and set apart to good and there is a dire warning given in verse 8 to those who would ignore that command.
 
Verse 8
 
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to reshape and make us into the image of Jesus Christ and to sin against that work is to reject God’s will for our life.
 
A rather pompous-looking deacon was endeavoring to impress upon a class of boys the importance of living the Christian life. "Why do people call me a Christian?" the man asked. After a moment’s pause, one youngster said, "Maybe it’s because they don’t know you."
 
May God help us to be and become all that He is declared us to be. 
 
Let’s pray.
 

 

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